SF Developer Displaces Club BnB and Club 21, Reducing Oakland LGBTQ Bars By Half

Carlos Uribe, general manager of Club 21 and Club BnB, sits upstairs at the Oakland nightclubs complex Dec. 17, 2019.  (Sam Lefebvre/KQED)

Updated Monday, 10 a.m. 

Club BnB and Club 21, two adjoining LGBTQ nightclubs near downtown Oakland, will shutter by Jan. 15, 2020 as a result of the landlord doubling the rent, according to general manager Carlos Uribe.

The loss of the multi-floor clubs reduces the number of LGBTQ nightlife establishments in Oakland from four to two, with only Port Bar and the White Horse Inn remaining. “We’re losing a queer space to gentrification, one that specifically caters to people of color,” Uribe said.

The clubs, with a combined capacity of more than 700, regularly offer subsidized space to community groups. On weekends, the clubs draw hundreds of patrons for events such as drag bingo and La Bota Loca, a ranchera- and banda-themed party featuring DJs and internationally touring live acts.

“There’s nothing like it in Oakland,” Uribe said of La Bota Loca. “It’s a safe space for queer Latinx people centered on an aspect of Mexican culture that can be hyper-masculine.”

Club BnB and Club 21, adjoining LGBTQ nightclubs near downtown Oakland, will shutter by Jan. 15, 2020.
Club BnB and Club 21, adjoining LGBTQ nightclubs near downtown Oakland, will shutter by Jan. 15, 2020. (Sam Lefebvre/KQED)

The Broadway and Franklin Street clubs employ some 40 people, many of them for more than a decade, and the businesses have in recent months sought a new location without success.

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“The market is difficult,” Uribe said, noting the high-cost of commercial rent plus competition for suitable raw warehouse space from cannabis cultivators.

The 2120 Broadway property was acquired in May of 2018 for approximately $8 million by a company tied to Ellis Partners, a San Francisco real-estate developer, county records show.

Ellis proposed that the clubs either begin paying $45,040/month, more than twice their current rent, or leave the building by January, according to Uribe. The clubs are on a month-to-month lease.

A realty brochure advertises the building as "creative office space."
A realty brochure advertises the building as "creative office space."

Ellis Partners did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In Oakland, the firm is known for developing an incoming 18-story office building at 1100 Broadway marketed as The Key.

A realty brochure acquired by KQED advertises the 23,000 square-foot Club BnB and Club 21 building as “creative office space” available in the third quarter of 2020. A rendering shows the exterior with an abstract design in place of the current water justice-themed mural from 2011.

Nancypili Hernandez, coordinator of the Water Writes mural, which shows young people of color as environmental stewards, reached out to Ellis Partners after seeing the rendering published by KQED.

"The mock-up shows a white-washed wall with random abstract patterns where our mural lives," Hernandez said. "This image holds value now more than ever, and we hope to work with the new owners to preserve it."

The 6,000-square-foot piece features the work of artists including Vogue, Bounce, DIME, Agana, Cece Carpio and Josue Rojas, and is part of a multi-city series sponsored by environmentalist group the Estria Foundation.

Club BnB has existed in different locations in Oakland under the name Bench and Bar since 1976, Uribe said. It operated in the current building 2004-2010 before moving to 17th Street. Club 21 took its place in 2010, and then both clubs reopened in the current building in 2015.

Uribe said the clubs’ parent company is owned by Frank Ciglar, a board member of the Oakland Pride organization, who bought out his former business partner Charles Bisbee in 2016.