Bad news for the LGBT community: The city's only, long-standing, dedicated bar for gay women*, The Lexington Club (3464 19th Street), is getting sold and sounds likely to close very soon. In a Facebook post, owner Lila Thirkield says she made the decision to sell "with a heavy heart," but declining sales the last couple of years combined with a raise in her rent has made the business unsustainable.
She blames the decline in business to gentrification in the neighborhood, of course, suggesting that a segment of her clientele has been forced to leave the city.
And this news comes a year after we saw the closure of beloved Hayes Valley gay bar Marlena's, and in the same year that Latino gay bar Esta Noche gave up the ghost in the Mission.
From Thirkield's posting:
Eighteen years ago I opened The Lex to create a space for the dykes, queers, artists, musicians and neighborhood folks who made up the community that surrounded it. Eighteen years later, I find myself struggling to run a neighborhood dyke bar in a neighborhood that has dramatically changed. A few years back my rent was raised to market rate, and though it was difficult, we seemed to weather it at first. But as the neighborhood continued to change, we began to see sales decline, and they continued to do so. We tried new concepts, different ways of doing things, but we were struggling. When a business caters to about 5% of the population, it has tremendous impact when 1% of them leave. When 3% or 4% of them can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood, or the City, it makes the business model unsustainable.
Please know that if I thought The Lexington Club could be saved, I would not be writing this. I understand what a huge loss this is to the community. It is difficult and painful to lose our queer spaces. However, my faith in queer San Francisco still runs deep. It is the best place in the world and dykes and queers are still an integral part of this city. They always will be. I have spent the better part of my adult life facilitating and creating community among dykes and queers in SF and I will not stop. The Lexington Club had an incredible eighteen-year run. It will forever live on in my heart, as I’m sure it will for many of you. To all who were a part of it - thank you for your contribution to a great chapter in San Francisco and a great chapter in my own life. And, of course, a huge thank you to my amazing staff. We made some incredible memories, and we will make more.
It's unclear if the closing is imminent, or what the new owner's plans for the space might be.
Thirkield says she's done an interview with former Guardian publisher Marke Bieschke which is due online at 48Hills tomorrow.
In the meantime, fans of the bar should get over there for one last game of pinball or pool, and to toast this latest death in the city's LGBT bar scene.
Updates as warranted.
Update: The 48 Hills interview with Thirkield is now online, and in it she says she there will, in fact, be a closing party and the sale is not quite complete. Also, she says, she will be keeping The Lexington brand alive through one-off parties, including maybe some events at the other bar she's a partner in, Virgil's Sea Room.
* Some may argue the case for Wild Side West, which remains a LGBT-friendly neighborhood bar in Bernal Heights, open since 1962, with a historic link to the lesbian community, but anecdotally we understand it is more of a mixed bar these days.