Ideas for Ex-Eagle Site Discussed
One of the people planning to transform San Francisco’s old Eagle Tavern indicated at a community meeting this week that he wants to keep the former gay bar friendly to LGBTs.
Referring to people he’s heard from recently, Eli Spear, one of five partners who has a lease to 398 12th Street, said, "It couldn’t be more wonderful that all these people care about this place. I’m going to continue to invite them in" for beer busts and other events.
The Eagle was well known for its Sunday afternoon fundraisers, which raised money for numerous LGBT organizations over the years. The bar closed in April 2011 after a rent dispute between landlord John Nikitopoulos and the bar owners. Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter about what would happen to the space.
On July 30, the Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee put off a vote on whether to recommend to the full board the transfer of the liquor license to the space. The matter was continued to September 24 so the project organizers could do outreach to the community.
Spear, who’s been involved with the process for four months, sounded exasperated even as he started his presentation Monday, August 13 at the Community Leadership Alliance meeting at the San Francisco Public Library.
"We’re opening a bar, you guys, that’s pretty much what it is," Spear told the handful of members of the public who attended, along with police, and others.
Entertainment Commissioner and Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club President Glendon Hyde, also known as drag queen Anna Conda, has spoken frequently about preserving the Eagle’s history and was at Monday’s meeting.
He asked about how the new operators would pay "homage" to the years of fundraisers and other activities that had taken place at the South of Market neighborhood venue. Hyde also said that it had been "economically feasible for anyone to go" to the Eagle, and he was concerned about losing an affordable space.
"I’m not going to do it alone ... I hope to find collaborators," Spear said. "We have to invite you" before new operators move in to the space.
He added that he and the others don’t necessarily want to operate the cheapest bar, but he said, "We’re not stupid" and "I’m not pricing anybody out." Spear remarked that he drinks a lot of "shitty" beer himself.
He also said during his presentation that his "daydream" is for the business to operate all day and night, with food options and "hopefully some dancing." He said they would continue to use the bar’s stage and patio, and he expressed an interest in keeping Thursday night live music events that the Eagle had offered.
Spear, a licensed general contractor who said he owns "a little bit" of the Mission district venue Public Works, referred to the former Eagle as a "shack" and said there’s "a lot of work to do" on the space.
Attorney Mark Rennie, whose office represents Double Rainbow LLC, which is the applicant for the liquor license, submitted a letter to the Board of Supervisors in May saying the former Eagle site would "continue hosting fundraisers with a special emphasis on LGBT and HIV charities."
At Monday’s meeting, Rennie said he moved to the South of Market neighborhood in 1974. Referring to the emergence of the AIDS epidemic during the early 1980s, he said those times were "a horror show." The first people who "gave a damn" about those with AIDS were people from the Eagle and other bars, he said.
Rennie expressed a desire to see the spot become "a cool little hangout bar," where transgender people, those from the leather community, and others feel welcome.
"How do you make a fitting memorial to something that’s historically important?" he asked.
However, Rennie noted, the space has been sitting vacant for more than a year, and he suggested a lack of progress on transforming the space could eventually lead to the site housing condominiums.
Data from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control lists Nikitopoulos, the landlord for the 12th Street site, as Double Rainbow’s managing member.
Nikitopoulos hasn’t responded to numerous interview requests over the past several months, and his voicemail wasn’t accepting messages Tuesday.