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The Stud, San Francisco's Oldest Gay Bar, Shutters But 'Is Not Dead'

The Stud

The co-owners announced the closing of the physical location, but they hope to reestablish the business once the crisis is over.


The Stud, San Francisco's oldest gay bar, has shuttered its location of 33 years.

Co-owner Honey Mahogany confirmed the news of the closure Wednesday on Facebook. "This has been a really hard day among many hard days. Know that we love ALL of you, we love San Francisco, and we love the nightlife," stated the transgender alum of RuPaul's Drag Race.

A formal statement from the bar is forthcoming Thursday, Mahogany said. The Stud will also hold a press conference with State Sen. Scott Wiener and S.F. Supervisor Matt Haney.

First opened in 1966 around the city's burgeoning leather community by cofounders George Mason and trans business owner Alexis Muir, who was rumored to be the inspiration of Anna Madrigal in Tales of the City, the Stud grew into an LGBTQ+ institution and safe haven.

It hosted many drag and community events over the decades. Trannyshack, one of S.F.'s long-running drag shows that included RuPaul among its starry headliners, was held there until 2008 and later rebranded in response to a controversy surrounding its name.

Located in South of Market neighborhood, the Stud survived the AIDS crisis and faced closure in 2016 due to a rent hike; a creative collective including Mahogany stepped in to save it.

Its temporary closure in mid-March, due to the city's shelter-in-place order, has led its co-owners to decide to close its physical location in lieu of paying rent indefinitely without substantial financial support. However, in a statement, co-owner Marke Bieschke assured patrons that "The Stud, the nightlife entity, is not dead." Rather, it will switch to a new business model until it becomes safe to open a new physical location.

"By closing the doors on our location -- a place that holds memories for almost the entire city, and which survived both the AIDS and app years, as well as two tech booms and two economic busts, all with wigs a-flyin' -- we're able to survive another day, in a new Stud incarnation," Bieschke wrote on 48 Hills. "Mobile Stud parties, pop-ups, appearances, and more are being investigated. Who doesn't want the Stud serving liquor and looks at their socially distanced lesbian wedding or drag Quinceanera?

"And after this is all over, a new permanent location, to help rebuild the city's shattered nightlife scene--and continue the Stud's rough-and-tumble legacy the only way we know how: with shots up and heels high."

To this end, the owners have launched a GoFundMe with a goal of $500,000 to help the Stud through this transition. Digital events are still ongoing.

The future of gay bars was already in doubt before the COVID-19 outbreak; a rising acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, who are moving away from traditional "gayborhoods," has led to declining business for many historic safe havens. The health crisis may hasten these closures. BT2, a queer institution in Austin, announced its own coronavirus-related closure last week.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.