Please don't call in a 5150, concerned readers, but we don't want to live in a world with no Marlena's, Hayes Valley's single greatest bar, gay or otherwise. Why, just last Friday your editor and a dear friend guzzled several rounds of (strong) vodka-based cocktails there, singing along to Wilson Phillips and Fleetwood Mac before blacking out a short time later. (The same just cannot be done at popular, raucous-free artisan cocktail bars.)
According to Grub Street, the bar was bought and will close soon. How soon? Well, according to the bar manager with whom SFist spoke with on Wednesday, it will shutter during the first week of March. Sad. Very sad. Soon gay bars will be things of the past; tourists attractions that people will pay to visit along Castro between 18th and 17th. "What's a frozen Cosmo," they'll ask.
Why is Marlena's so important, you ask? Well, Grub can tell you that:
The bar takes its name from the longtime drag persona of owner Garry ‘x’ McLain, who holds the title of Empress XXV of SF's Imperial Council. (If you don't know what that means, read up on the organization here). The bar opened shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake when Hayes Valley still was in the shadow of the Central Freeway. For many years it's played host to a weekly drag show on Sundays, and has famously been decked out to the point of excess for various holidays — most famously at Christmastime, when McLain pulls out his collection of 1,400 Santas and covers every inch of wall space with them.
This leaves Twin Peaks, the Cinch, and Aunt Charlie's Lounge (tread lightly, neighboring Twitter employees) to take up the slack of bars featuring gloriously aging clientele who bicker and talk shit while getting blotto. (Curse you, Grindr and Craigslist M4M.)
No word yet as to whom or what will take over Hayes Valley's single greatest contribution to society. We'll update you as soon as we know more. Until then, you can find us chained to Marlena's front door staging a one-man #occupation. Sob.
UPDATE: SFist spoke with Marlena himself this afternoon. He told us that, yes, although it's closing it will remain a gay bar. As for the name? It might very well change. "The name is still under negotiation, but might change. I'll still be here, though!" The bar will close for remodeling and should open a month later in its newest incarnation. Fingers crossed.
UPDATE II: BAR has more from owner Garry McLain, AKA known as Absolute Empress XXV of San Francisco, Marlena the Magnificent, who says that the new owners are "young" and "eager." At least one already owns another bar in the city, he went on to tell the BAR.
Marlena's: 488 Hayes, S.F.