What might have been the final battle over Another Planet Entertainment’s makeover of the Castro Theatre ended with a whimper, as the SF Board of Supervisors quickly approved their plan to serve liquor on the second floor of the storied theater.
It’s been a year and nine months since Berkeley-based concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment (APE) took over management of the Castro Theatre. And boy, have they received blowback from the Castro community since, as their plan is to make the theater more of a concert venue with far less frequent film screenings. APE’s proposal to remove the orchestra-level seats of the theater, and replace them with temporary seating that could be shoehorned in for film events, was perhaps the most contentious component of the remodel, and some City Hall commissions opposed those plans.
But APE enjoyed a huge shift of momentum in their favor in June, when the SF Board of Supervisors voted against landmarking the seats as part of the interior of the theater. That gave the green light for many of APE’s interior remodel plans. Just over a week later, the SF Planning Commission approved APE’s $15 million theater remodel plan, albeit with a laundry list of conditions dictating a minimum number of movie screenings, a minimum percentage of LGBTQ-themed programming, and deadline dates for when APE will complete these renovations.
That seemingly left APE’s final fight as their plan to add liquor service on the upstairs level of the theater, a change that is not allowed under the theater’s current landmark status. But a legislative fix allowing that change was before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
And the supervisors approved that change to allow liquor service on the second floor, in a quick 10-1 vote with no discussion — Supervisor Aaron Peskin was the only one who voted against. (Peskin was also the only No vote in June.)
A committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to forward to the full board one of the last hurdles for renovations to begin at the Castro Theatre that will determine if the movie palace can sell liquor on the second floor. https://t.co/jc9ysRzSNq— Bay Area Reporter (@eBARnews) October 24, 2023
This was not a straight-up vote on whether the Castro Theatre could have an upstairs bar, and the legislation the Board passed Tuesday does not even mention the Castro Theatre. Instead, the legislative text is a measure“to exclude Article 10 Landmark buildings” (which the Castro Theatre is) to “allow Nighttime Entertainment with a Conditional Use authorization on the second floor.” As the Bay Area Reporter explained before the vote, that’s basically a zoning change that would allow for a bar serving liquor to operate on the second floor of a landmarked building in the neighborhood.
And according to APE’s plans they brought before the Planning Commission in June, it seems they will not be putting a bar in the second-floor lobby. It sounds more like they’ll have mobile carts with alcoholic drinks and food, which can be wheeled into the theater for live concerts.
“The front counter of those concession stands are on wheels, and they’re in the lobby,” APE’s lead architect on the project Christopher Wasney told the Planning Commission in June. “Those front counters or front bars could wheel into the house for, say, a loud concert.”
This may have been the final fight for APE’s plans to remake the Castro Theatre, and APE has effectively gotten everything they want. Yes, they agreed to a plan to show more film programming than perhaps they would have liked, and they were forced to agree to more LGBTQ programming. And they still have a second vote on the same item before the board next week, and may face another Planning Commission vote on the technicals of the liquor service. But both of those votes seem like they’ll be formalities.
So no matter how you feel about this massive overhaul of the 101-year-old Castro Theatre, at this point, hopefully we can all just look forward to APE’s renovations to the aging theater’s ceiling work, sgraffito murals, and proscenium walls. APE says those renovations should be completed within five years.
Image: Lynn F. via Yelp