Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Castro Closures: Gym SF, Bagdad Cafe,
Under One Roof Annex & Fuzio

[UPDATE 1: Another Castro vicinity restaurant is gone. Info below. 2. The Bar on Church and the Blockbuster outlet are closed. Info & pix below.]

The Castro theater today screened the restored version of Antonioni's "The Passenger" starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, who passed away recently and who for me will always be remembered best for this film and not "Last Tango in Paris", and I couldn't pass up the chance to see it for the 14th time.

On my way to the movie palace I snapped pix of all the signs I saw announcing a business was closed, about to change hands, soon to shutter or the front door locked for inventory.

Some of what's news to me is that Gym SF, the work out club on Market Street above Books Inc, has signs posted on their mirrors detailing their last date of business and for guys to empty the lockers. Turning that venue into a sex space would be my ideal change at the club. They must vacate the premises by April 30th:

Other news to me is the shuttering of the Baghdad Cafe at the prime location of Market and 16th Streets is closed and a sign in the window announced it had been sold, with a reopening promised for May 1st. Good luck with that:

I think the Bay Area Reporter has written about Fuzio, the affordable Italian eatery saying "ciao" and splitting the Castro neighborhood, and it slipped my mind that they're gone. Someone needs to create a scorecard of all the closed businesses and troubled Gay Inc groups in this town going through major upheavals. Fuzio should also have spell-checked "unfortunately" before printing up their sign:

A few doors down Castro from Fuzio was this sign on the window of the locked door at the shell of A Different Light. When the workers inside saw my flash go off, one of the lesbians approached the door curious about my picture-taking. "We're not closed for good yet," she said. OK, whatever you say, but I remember when that place was a hub of homosexual wordsmiths and enjoyed community support:

Do you get the slight sense that folks at the Under One Roof annex on Market Street where Tower Records once sold music on vinyl are burnt out and expressing deep-frustration through sarcasm? This sign was posted in the entrance to the upstairs annex, as workers from the liquidation company was hauled boxes into moving vans:

Now would be an ideal time to ask mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty what happened to his "Castro Renaissance" he promised us. Anyone remember this good idea of Bevan's and do you think the Castro district experienced that renaissance while he was on the Board of Supervisors? If went through such a time, I missed it and we sure as hell aren't living in a renaissance now.

From the Bay Times in 2005:

On the board, Dufty has led what he calls, “the Castro Renaissance,” a plan to revitalize San Francisco’s gay mecca, a cleanup of the city’s Market Street Halloween celebration, and an effort to provide housing for gay homeless youth.

This appeared in the BAR in 2006:

First conceived in 2004 by District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty as part of his Castro Renaissance plan, the historical society project calls for a museum space and archival center to be built on the Castro library branch's property, ... It is projected to cost upwards of $15 million to build. ...

Dufty did secure a $75,000 grant from the city to pay for the conceptual work ...

As we all know, the local library branch was not expanded to include a space for the gay historical society, but $75,000 in city dollars that might have been better spent on general operating expenses for the society, went toward a feasibility study and some gay consultants earned a few paychecks.


The BF and I were walking past Pudong, which was located at 2029 Market Street between 14th and Dolores, for approximately three-months serving up dim sum and saw this sign taped to one of the front doors:

The short existence of Pudong came and went so quickly, it barely registered on us that the cavernous space had been leased by new management and was serving food again. While the location is more than a stone's throw from Castro Street, the Castro district nowadays starts at the SF LGBT Community Center at Market and Octavia Boulevard, and by that boundary Pudong's closure belongs on this list.


On Church Street, two recent closures are added to this list of troubled or defunct businesses in the gayborhood.

At Church and 14th Streets, what was until last month known as the BOC, Bar on Church, is now empty but getting exterior and interior makeovers. Hopeful signs a new club will shortly open for customers at this central location? Maybe the owner is gussying up the joint to be more attractive to potential businesses. For many, the bar is better known for once being the home of the Transfer, a proud dive.

Three doors up from the shuttered BOC is the very empty former location for a Blockbuster outlet. If memory serves, the video and DVD corporate chain end the lease at the end of February. Except for the closed and other locations signs, nothing was posted to the windows about something new going in there in the near future.


Anonymous said...

One thing I might remind folks about A Different Light is that it has NOT been a community asset for over a decade now. The days of ADL as a mini community center are long gone! That's because a lot of the staff (myself included) quit 10 years ago after the new owners stripped the store of its incredible stock and cut back the hours of a person with AIDS so that he'd lose his benefits, despite his begging them not to do it. In the past decade, they have not been a hub for our community. When my anthology on gay liberation (Smash the Church, Smash the State) came out, they told a friend they weren't going to carry it. The Castro kickoff was not at ADL but Books, Inc. I'm not shedding tears over losing ADL, because we lost it when Richard LaBonté and the wonderful staff that used to run it left the store.

John said...

I think what we're seeing now is the endgame of the Great Gay Neighborhood. Soon the only Gay thing left here will be that flag. What I naively thought was revolutionary and permanent when I moved to SF in the '70s has barely lasted 40 years.

evilgene said...

Yes its sad to see business leave the Castro and great places and events in the Castro leave as well.

Organizations that did great things for the community say 10 or 20 years ago are getting bogged down with "clicky" attitudes and forcing out people who love to volunteer or to even attend the events. I don't think the area needs a Renaissance but a Revolution.

Scott Larson said...

When I first visited San Francisco in the 80s, it was like "Gay Disney" to me. Years later, it started to dwindle and the influx of strollers and generic retail was taking over. Did the Castro serve all of it's usefulness or are we finding that we don't need a "safe" district? As we become more accepted, it appears more and more metropolitan areas are losing their gay districs.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

It seems that there have been a lot of closures in the Castro lately, but I don't know if this means "the end of the gayborhood" as much as it sign that the Castro is subject to the same business cycles as the rest of the world. These were not thriving, vibrant businesses that suddenly collapsed, but were becoming increasingly marginal as they went on. I don't think there's any lack of money in the Castro to support businesses, I just think that the businesses need to keep thinking about how they can be competitive and offer what the neighborhood residents want and need.

Anonymous said...

I heard tonight that the Capri Ristorante on Market Street is also closing as is the Italian deli on Noe Street across Noe from Cafe Flore.

unconfirmed rumors at this point but hot off the press

Toby Wiggin said...

I said it 15 years ago when the F line opened in 1995 that it the City was creating the forces for the neighborhood to change and gay people said, 'no way, the Castor will always be gay', and here we are 15 years later and we got a law passed that says that chains can't come into the district and now we are seeing this influx of outsiders flooding the Castro and I'll say it one more time, that if you don't protect your neigborhood you deserve to lose it.

I had a great idea for the different light bookstore and turning it into a community space for events, fundraising, yoga, art shows, ballroom dancing, commitment ceremonies, receptions, children's parties, and what do I get is a lot of people ignoring the idea and saying, 'too bad its closing', 'we'll miss it', and no one picks up on the idea and people seem to be defeatist. Protect it or lose it, its that simple.

Its unprecedented to build a streetcar line from a major tourist zone into a city neighborhood, not any neighborhood but the Castro, the only gay neighborhood like it in the world, and why, we think to change it forever, and the powers that be did, and the tourist dollar increased property values and commercial rents went up and the familiar shops slowly closed. And what will replace them? Will it turn into another tourist zone like Fisherman's wharf with Tshirt shops. Who will stop this desecration. Is it too late. Are we all tired of this story.

Toby Wiggin said...

The 'F' line is a Disneyland kind of ride with old transit cars in fun colors designed to catch the imagination of tourists to get on them and go where they go. The 'F' line is not designed for the locals. How many locals want to go to Fisherman's wharf? The line is not modern mass transportation that runs throughout the City into so many neighborhoods. The line is designed to bring tourists to one specific location and they have been successful at that. The power of the Castro has been diminished over time, and now the zone is being overrun by outsiders. Soon the gay bars will be invaded by straights and taken over by them. Why couldn't the City protect this unique neighborhood and nourish it as the special place in history that it is. They did just the opposite. The straight world has all the neighborhoods in the world. Why couldn't there be one Castro in the world?

One last thing about this affair. The reason I am so knowledgeable about all this is that I resent the intrusion an manipulation from behind the scenes of downtown money into the development and future of the Castro. Things change for sure, but the intrusion of the 'F' line into the Castro has changed forever a very special place in time, a historical place, some would call the spiritual home of gay life, a place where so much changed began and swept the world, the first this, the first that over and over again. I resent the behind the scenes manipulation of the Castro zone, a unique neighborhood in SF. No other neighborhood has had this kind of tourist development thrust upon it by the City. In my opinion it was a way to neutralize and change forever, even destroy gay power in the Castro. Now, at this point in time, we are seeing this influx of outsiders flooding the Castro and in effect destroying or if you like, changing forever something that in the future we will only read about of how it once was. And it was all done behind the backs of the residents of the neighborhood fooling them into thinking that the 'F' line was for them. People were charmed by the historic cars not seeing the ulterior motive behind this transportation line designed for tourists. Thank god for Mark Hustius for bringing some color and style into the Castro and others like Kirk Read and the Sisters. There used to be more color, there used to be young people living there, less so now, can't afford the rents. Its still home to thousands of gay people but their getting older and being pushed out. Nothing is real but change. I just don't like change done behind the backs of a community to in effect pull the rug out from under it, the Castro, that place where so much started and changed the world forever.

Unknown said...

thanks for the thoughtful comments about the changes taking place in the castro today.

i think MUMC and mark leno and scott wiener and other politicians, both gay and straight, are in deep denial about the decline of the gayborhood.

we need MUMC and our pols to engage the wider community to address the closures, and why many of us have no reason to visit the castro and spend money.

how many other venues have to close before our elected leaders get a clue about the situation?

Unknown said...

hi anonymous,

i was by rosenberg's deli on noe street and asked the folks at the counter about the rumor they were closing. happy to say, as are they, that the deli is doing fine and has no plans to end their business operation opposite cafe flore.

let's celebrate this business surviving and hopefully thriving.

Anonymous said...

uhh Toby?
I don't think the F line has anything to do with why these businesses are closing.

Just sayin.