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S.F.'s Historic Stud Bar Appears Saved From Closure, For Now

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'Keep Calm and Save The Stud' fliers, posted outside the historic SOMA district gay bar. (Brittany Hosea-Small/KQED)

Turn on the disco balls and sing a hopeful round of "I Will Survive." Today, a group of drag queens, DJs and other fans of The Stud, a 50-year-old gay bar in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, announced it has secured funds to buy the bar as a co-op and save it from closure.

"I'm feeling pretty stoked," says co-op spokesperson Mica Sigourney, whose drag performer name is VivvyAnne Forevermore. "We've been working really hard on coming together and formulating a plan, and we have one."

The 15-member Stud Collective formed this summer after the building's landlords announced they would triple the bar's rent beginning Sept. 1.

It was devastating news to the bar's current owner, Michael McElhaney, who was already planning a move home to Hawaii to take care of his elderly mother. McElhaney called an emergency gathering of friends and employees. He tearfully told them their beloved bar would probably close unless someone stepped in to save it.


Now that the co-op has shown that it can handle the increased rent -- $9,000 a month -- McElhaney says he will transfer his ownership of the bar to its members.

"If these awesome folks can't make it work, no one can," he says.

There are still some loose ends to tie up. The Stud community is working with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development to establish the bar as an official "legacy" business, which ensures special protections.

Most importantly, the landlords need to be on board. Sigourney is confident they will be, but he's not quite ready to crack the champagne.

"There will be a party," he assures, "when we sign a lease."

Then again, it's always a party at The Stud. "Celebrate (it) as it is now," Sigourney says. "That's actually one of the most important things that people can do."

Check out KQED Arts’ video about LGBT artists reflecting on safe spaces in the Bay Area.

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