We must, given the players involved, take this with a massive grain of salt. But the latest word from the man who is ostensibly going to be the new manager of Badlands in the Castro is that it will remain Badlands, and it's reopening in two months.

Badlands, which first opened on 18th Street in the Castro in 1974, purportedly closed "permanently" in the summer of 2020, according to longtime owner Les Natali. At the time, Natali claimed, spuriously, that the nightclub would reopen that fall under new ownership and a new name, but that did not come to pass.

Various unreliable updates have come since then, including one in February 2023 when both Natali and new business partner TJ Bruce insisted to Hoodline that Badlands would be reopening, under a new name, within eight weeks. Bruce, who owns the Badlands locations in Sacramento and Portland, said he and Natali were hammering out details of their deal, and Natali told Hoodline that he was selling the business to Bruce.

Well, it is now August, and it does not seem that Natali has relinquished his interest in the club. Bruce now tells the Bay Area Reporter that he and Natali have come to some shared-responsibility agreement in which he will "slowly" take over the business fully, and he says he "will be managing the day-to-day business."

He also says that Badlands should be back open, still under the name Badlands, "within 60 days."

The Badlands liquor license remains in suspension, as Hoodline reported, but that suspension can be lifted immediately by the owners, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The lengthy closure of Badlands, which had been a nightlife anchor of the neighborhood for many years, is just one of several factors that have kept the Castro feeling quieter than ever since pandemic restrictions lifted. The Natali-owned Toad Hall across the street has been open and bustling since 2021, but another of his businesses, Hamburger Mary's (531 Castro), has remained closed since March 2020.

That closure particularly stings for local merchants and neighbors who listened for 15 years as Natali claimed to be trying to bring a restaurant back into the space after the closure of The Patio in the early 2000s. After many, many false starts, Hamburger Mary's finally opened in March 2018, only to close seemingly permanently two years later.

Bruce tells the Bay Area Reporter that he and Natali have "worked together for 24 years," but this is the first time they will have a formal business relationship.

Talk of Badlands becoming something else, under new ownership, came at a time of heightened race-related protests across the country in 2020, and followed years in which the club was dogged by stories of racist treatment of Black patrons going back to the early 2000s. Addressing those revived claims in June 2020, a month before the "permanent closure" announcement, Natali told the BAR that the allegations "were found without merit and were dropped" back in 2005. And, he added, "We welcome people of all races and all colors and we probably have the largest, most diverse clientele of any bar in the Castro."

Badlands first opened in 1974 and took on a country-and-western theme in the next decade. The bar has been under Natali's ownership since 1999, when it became a video dance bar focused on Top 40-type hits.

Previously: Badlands reopening remains in limbo after liquor license surrendered, owner Les Natali insists new management arriving soon [Hoodline]

Top photo by Steven Bracco/Hoodline