The Stud: Rent increase may close San Francisco’s oldest gay bar

In this Tuesday, July 5, 2016, photo, bar owner Michael McElhaney is interviewed at his bar, The Stud, in San Francisco. The Stud, one of the most iconic gay bars in the country, may be out of business this fall after its rent more than doubled. It's just one of many businesses going out of business in San Francisco where climbing rents and new construction have old-timers fretting that the San Francisco they know is disappearing.

In this Tuesday, July 5, 2016, photo, bar owner Michael McElhaney is interviewed at his bar, The Stud, in San Francisco. The Stud, one of the most iconic gay bars in the country, may be out of business this fall after its rent more than doubled. It's just one of many businesses going out of business in San Francisco where climbing rents and new construction have old-timers fretting that the San Francisco they know is disappearing. (AP Photo/Janie Har)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One of the nation’s most celebrated gay bars may soon go out of business after a new landlord more than doubled the rent, part of a trend that has old-timers lamenting that the San Francisco they know and love— dilapidated and diverse — is disappearing.

At 50 years old, the Stud is the longest continually running gay bar in the city and known throughout the country as one of the bohemian, gender-bending, anything-goes institutions that made San Francisco into a gay mecca. A sign at the front door, decorated with gold tinsel, reads: “Everybody is welcome at The Stud. Dream It. Be It.”

In June the building was sold, and the bar’s owner received a notice that the monthly rent for the 2,800-square-foot space would leap from $3,800 to $9,500 in September. On Sunday, he called an emergency meeting to break the news to regulars.

The tale is familiar in a city that is becoming ever wealthier with the arrival of newcomers taking high-paying technology jobs downtown or in nearby Silicon Valley. San Francisco has steadily shed coin-op laundries, neighborhood dive bars and auto-repair shops— all certainly part of natural turnover but one hurried along by changing owners and rising rents.

In 1992, nearly 1,300 businesses closed or changed locations, according to a 2014 report by the city’s budget and legislative analyst. By 2011, that number had grown to nearly 12,800. Last year, voters approved a preservation fund to financially assist longtime small businesses and nonprofits that face steep rent increases.

The Stud could qualify for such help, but it is operating on a month-to-month lease, without the protection of a long-term lease. An agent for the building’s new owner, City Commercial Investments LLC, could not be reached for comment on plans for the property.

The rent increase is “not out of the realm of what San Francisco rents are like now,” Stud owner Michael McElhaney said. “But being the type of business we are, doing cabaret shows and drag and having primarily weekend and evening business, it’s definitely a tough challenge.”

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