With fifteen months of COVID-19 restrictions behind us, the Castro’s bars and restaurants were bumping Tuesday night with San Franciscans celebrating the end of social-distancing rules.
San Francisco’s gayborhood roared back to life Tuesday night in a way that would’ve been completely inconceivable just a few months ago. Like the thousands who filled staple bars and go-to eateries in the 'hood, I, as well, saw it only fit to celebrate the city’s reopening by clinking glasses at watering holes crowded with people — comfortably bumping shoulders with strangers and asking for libations without muffling requests through a piece of cloth.
June 15, 2021, officially the busiest Tuesday in the Castro ever. pic.twitter.com/MAiHjlPrdT— Steven Bracco (@Braccs) June 16, 2021
The corner of Market and 17th streets was dotted with people snapping pictures of themselves with friends before moving into Twin Peaks Tavern. Inside, the storied queer gathering place — the first in the nation with street-facing clear glass windows — bustled with its usual age-diverse clientele, many of who took to the mezzanine floor with hopes of finding an unoccupied table. (Still, the bar is operating on limited hours and shuttered at 9 p.m.)
Outside, a sizable line led to the register at Hot Cookie; further down and on the other side of Castro Street, you could patiently wait to secure a seat at Blush Bar; Cafe Mystique was clearly overwhelmed and understaffed, a theme I’d venture to say was commonplace at every open late-night establishment Tuesday evening.
The line was back outside Beaux for much of the evening, with a full-capacity crowd (and go-go boys) filling the dancefloor.
And things were busy inside 440, even though the parklet outside emptied out after the sun went down.
The back patio at The Mix was fully packed by 10 p.m.
For the first time since the pandemic began, I found myself navigating through a sea of warm bodies on my way to Toad Hall — welcomingly unbothered and, if anything, reassured by the sheer volume of people that San Francisco is roaring back to proper form.
Hi Tops was very crowded for most of the early hours of the night, with people five deep trying to get drinks at the bar like the busiest Thursday in the Before Times.
The Edge also proved busy with locals packed tighter than albacore tuna in a tin can. And not a single inebriated soul in that space, myself included, seemed to care about the lack of arm room or batted an eye as the indoor stagnated. Though I had intended to cap the evening people-watching atop the Lookout, my wells of extroversion had begun to run thin.
(That… and I was desperately trying to avoid a head-thumping hangover the next day. One more drink at the Lookout would’ve put odds against my favor.)
It’s hard to completely describe the sheer simple joy that was bar hopping in the Castro Tuesday evening. As humdrum of sentiment as it is, it’s the small niceties of life we miss the most when they’re suddenly taken away. But, at long last, they’ve returned — just in time for a quasi-normal Pride, no less.
Top photo: Jay Barmann/SFist