We knew as of January 2016 that the owner of The Gangway, the oldest continually operating gay bar in the city, at 841 Larkin Street in the 'Loin, was looking to sell the place. An earlier deal fell through last April, giving over a year of reprieve for the bar's staff and its crew of neighborhood regulars and lest you think otherwise, there are quite a lot of LGBT folks of all ages who live in the Tenderloin, in SROs or otherwise, who need a friendly place to drink. But now as the Chronicle reports, a new deal has been inked with the owner of Polk Street's Kozy Kar, known for that weird date rape joke on their box of wine and the (straight) porn incorporated into the decor.
Kozy Kar's owner Sam Young declined to comment to the Chronicle, but the Gangway is now on deathwatch for just as long as it takes for the liquor license to transfer, which usually happens within two months.
According to the license, Young is planning to open something called Young's Kung Fu Action Theatre & Laundry, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that's not going to be an LGBT hangout.
Update: Young reached out to SFist to say that this is, in fact, not going to be a bar, but actually a laundromat where "people will enjoy watching kung fu movies while they do their laundry." He says there aren't enough laundromats in the area and he wants to fill that void, and after 27 years in the bar business he's "decided to branch out and try other business ventures."
Update 2: The more that I think about it, the more that I'd be inclined to believe Young is just trying to have one over on me. He said he "would be silly to use that name for a bar," Young's Kung Fu Action Theatre & Laundry, but that may not end up being the name, and/or it will be a bar with that name. The fact is, there's a liquor license involved, so yeah, it's probably going to be a bar, and now he won't respond to a follow-up email.
The Gangway, now half its original size but still truckin', has been on this block of Larkin since 1961, having opened with a nautical (think randy sailors) theme, and still sporting a replica ship's bow over the front entrance. It's now second only to The Stud in age, though the Stud has moved locations at least once since its birth in 1965. And along with The Cinch on Upper Polk, which has become more of a mixed bar given its proximity to the Marina, and Aunt Charlie's, this is one of the last few vestiges of what was once the center of gay life in San Francisco.
SF Weekly's Pete Kane laments the news he wrote up a longer piece about the venerable bar last year and he spoke to current owner Jung Lee, 65, who for years ran the bar with his now decease wife. "I'm proud of myself and of my wife," Lee told Kane. "Oldest gay bar in town! I'm very happy, I didn't change anything. Just the lighting."
So, time is now officially ticking down for grabbing a drink at this truly diverse, divey, and welcoming little hole in the wall that is its own piece of LGBT history.