We learned a year ago that SoMa's Lone Star Saloon (1354 Harrison Street), a popular gay bear refuge since it opened back in 1989, was potentially in danger of being displaced as owner Tony Huerta campaigned for the passage of Prop J, the Legacy Business legislation. Prop J passed, but the processing of the first round of applications by the city has taken a number of months and meanwhile a For Sale sign went up on the Lone Star's two-story building. Not being able to qualify for historic preservation per se, the property is a potential development site in red-hot SoMa much like the nearby Stud but it's situations like these that the legislation, first proposed by Supervisor David Campos, hopes to address.
By giving grants to the businesses themselves and offering financial incentives to landlords for extending long-term leases to the historic businesses, the law will hopefully be a saving grace for hundreds of small businesses around the city beloved by the neighbors and patrons, but which could otherwise face serious threats of eviction. Businesses can also receive legal aid, and the city has just hired its first employee dedicated full-time to the program, Legacy Business Program Manager Richard Kurylo.
Now, as the Examiner reports, The Lone Star just passed its first big hurdle in the application process, getting approved as a culturally significant resource last Wednesday at a meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission. Once ultimately approved for Legacy Business status, this means that physical aspects of the space will have to remain unchanged, like the back patio decorated with its collection of vintage street signs and advertisements.
And though the bar is only 27 years old and doesn't qualify for the original provision of the law, which states that businesses must be at least 30 years old, there is an exception in the law made for businesses over 20 years old that are facing displacement.
It remains unclear whether the landlord, or a potential buyer, will be swayed by the $4.50 per square foot per year that the city will pay them for keeping the Lone Star in place with a long-term lease. But demolishing the bar to make way for development will, theoretically, be a much more difficult task once legacy status is granted.
The final step in the process comes at the Small Business Commission, which will be inducting its first round of Legacy Businesses today. Presumably, the Lone Star will be granted its status sometime this month, though that is unclear.
Update: The Lone Star was part of the first round of approvals at the Small Business Commission hearing on August 8, and it was approved, making it the first gay bar in SF to receive Legacy Business status.