San Francisco's Oldest Gay Bar Closes After 58 Years

Gangway bar exterior in San Francisco

Gay and LGBT establishments have faced uphill challenges for a while but still serve a community need. General increased societal acceptance, dating apps and online living have made the perceptive need for these establishment slip by the way side and their survival from foot traffic and patron revenue has faded.

Throughout the early 2000's we saw many long time favorites close and as we enter new decades many more will vanish. Will the local gathering place that offers community be reimagined in other ways? More on San Francisco's oldest gay bar closing it's doors below.

From the San Francisco Chronicle: Bookending an ownership saga that started two years ago, the transfer of the bar’s liquor license became final on Friday, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. On Sunday, the historic establishment hosted its final night of revelry.

Sam Young, the owner of the sometimes controversial bar Kozy Kar only a few blocks away, will take over the space at 841 Larkin St., according to the filing.

The cumbersome name for his new venture is Kung Fu Action Theater & Laundry, which Young last year said would be a place where people can do laundry and watch kung fu movies. It won’t be a bar, he said, despite the location’s liquor license. Young has also cast doubt on whether he’d keep the name Kung Fu Action Theater & Laundry.

The beginning of the Gangway’s end can be traced to January 2016, when a similar license transfer showed the bar was being sold to a group called Breaking Chad LLC, which planned to open a concept called Daddy Bones. Gangway owner Jung Lee at the time was selling the bar after a wage-related lawsuit and the death of one of his longtime managers. That deal never came to fruition.

There’s a lengthy bar history at 841 Larkin St. The address has been home to a drinking establishment of some kind since 1910, 51 years before the Gangway began publicly identifying as a gay bar.

With its shuttering, the Gangway joins a long roster of now-closed gay bars in the city, a trend some attribute to changing San Francisco demographics, gentrification and, even more simply put, acceptance of LGBT people in the wider community.

While it was open, the Tenderloin haunt was treasured by the city’s older gay crowd. Filling seats at the bar were working-class patrons from diverse backgrounds.

Though details about the replacement venue are scant, given the project’s curious name and Kozy Kar’s infamous reputation — a sign seen in 2015 made a joke about date rape, and ’70s porn plays on a loop — it seems unlikely that the Gangway’s old-school vibe will remain intact.

Young did not respond to requests for comment.

The Gangway

841 Larkin St.

Reported by Justin Phillips for the San Francisco Chronicle.