New Eagle Owners Prepare to Open
As owners of what’s to be known as SF Eagle prepare to reopen the beloved former leather bar, community members who’ve been hoping for the space to return as an LGBT venue have been cheering.
The old Eagle Tavern, at 398 12th Street, shut down in April 2011 after a rent dispute between the former owners and the landlord.
But those celebrating Mike Leon and Alex Montiel’s signing the lease in late August appear to know little about the businesses partners’ somewhat limited bar backgrounds.
"This is a community space. ... It’s not about us," Montiel said Sunday when the men held a press conference at the site.
But the bar faces hurdles.
A fundraiser to help with making repairs at the bar is set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, September 23 - the day of the Folsom Street Fair - in the parking lot across from the bar.
Among other issues, crowds at the old Eagle had appeared to be thin - except for the popular Sunday afternoon beer busts and Thursday’s live music nights - and attracting patrons to the new business could be a challenge.
Leon, who’s bisexual and in his mid-40s, and Montiel, who’s gay and said he’s close to Leon’s age, joined several supporters Sunday, September 16 for a news conference on the bar’s patio, where fundraisers helped generate thousands of dollars for nonprofits over the years. (The Bay Area Reporter interviewed both men at the news conference and Leon in a subsequent phone interview.)
Their plans aren’t finalized, but the format will be similar to what was available before - leather events, live music on Thursday nights, and beer busts. They also plan to have ladies’ nights.
The two spoke about their backgrounds. Montiel said he was related to the bar Badlands "a long time ago." Leon said his mother had a bar when he was growing up, and he helped her out whenever he could after school. He said he knows "the ins and outs" of what it takes to operate a bar.
Leon also owned the North Beach gallery Mea Cinis, which shut down last May. He said he still owns mixed-use property in that neighborhood.
They paid "well over" $250,000 for the lease, Leon said. That figure includes the security deposit, first and last month’s rent, purchasing a liquor license, and other costs. He wouldn’t say where they got that money, or how much they’re paying in rent. They have a 10-year lease, with an option of going for another 10 years, Leon said.
Both men had been patrons of the former bar, Leon said, and both said they had been working on obtaining the South of Market space since it closed last year.
Remodeling work will include upgrades related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Leon doesn’t know how much the work will cost, and he wouldn’t say how much money the two of them have.