Official word arrived Thursday that the co-op that formed to figure out a path forward for iconic 50-year-old SoMa nightclub The Stud has succeeded in securing funds to purchase the business from current owner Michael McElhaney, with hopes to preserve the club and keep it alive for decades to come. Organizer Mica Sigourney, whose drag name is VivvyAnne ForeverMore, tells SFist, "We sent out a call to leaders in nightlife and were overwhelmed by the immediate and enthusiastic response. The co-op for me really is a dream team of creative and brilliant folks. I'm really looking forward to the future of nightlife with this team."
Panic spread throughout the local LGBT community and a wave of eulogies began last month after McElhaney announced his plans to sell, as he faced a steep rent increase to $9,000, more than double what he'd been paying under two elderly, longtime property owners. The property recently changed hands, and with a monstrously large condo complex rising next door on what was for decades a surface parking lot used by Muni and Golden Gate Transit, it appeared The Stud's days were numbered.
McElhaney says he's happy to be transferring ownership to the diverse and multi-talented co-op, saying, "If these awesome folks can't make it work, no one can."
Supervisor Jane Kim has stepped in with some assistance, and she says in a release, "We can’t underestimate the importance of the Stud to the LGBT community. Not only has The Stud been the site of important artistic and political events, it currently serves one of the anchor business for the future Tenderloin/SOMA LGBT Heritage District." She adds, "I’m honored to be helping lead the efforts to make sure the Stud is open for another 50 years."
The next step, says Sigourney, will be to sit down with the new landlords and secure a long-term lease, and the team is hoping that they will be able to leverage the history and legacy of The Stud in that negotiation. “We have the funding, resources and talent to make The Stud a profitable, successful business,” says Sigourney. “We hope the new building owner will give us the chance to sign a market value lease and allow us to keep this historic bar a space where everyone is welcome.”
Business at the venue, which has tended in recent years to be concentrated on the weekends, will naturally need to be boosted in order to make the new rent. This is where several members of the nightlife community come in who have joined in the worker-owned collective, including DJ and promoter Mark O'Brien, Swagger Like Us founder Kelly Lovemonster, artist and DJ Siobhan Aluvalot, and drag star Honey Mahogany, all of whom will be tasked with throwing new events at the venue, promoting them, and bringing in their various friends and fan bases.
Also involved are several people with business, operations, and production experience, as well as former David Campos aide Nate Allbee, who helped Campos author the voter-approved Legacy Business Historic Preservation ordinance, which The Stud co-op will be leveraging as well.
As I've discussed here before, The Stud has been brought back from the brink more than once over the years, and it feels right and necessary that it should be saved again, despite the unrelenting forces of real estate in a city like SF.
“The real-estate market shows no signs of slowing down. If historic businesses are going to survive, our community will have to innovate,” says Sigourney. “And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”