Long time SoMa fixture & gay bar, The Stud, faces closure as rent triples

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The Stud, one of San Francisco’s historic gay bars, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, but now the community is rallying to help keep it open in light of a massive rent increase.

Since 1987, the bar has been at its current location at 9th and Harrison Streets.

Supporters say it's much more than a bar.

"You instantly became one of the family," said bartender Bernadette Fons. For more than eight years, she’s prepared The Stud to open for business in the evenings. She calls it her second home.

But now, The Stud's future is uncertain.

The building's new owner, a real estate investment company in Pacifica bought the property two weeks ago.

Starting September, the rent will increase from $3,800 a month to $9,500.

"Very heavy heart. It's been my livelihood. It's been my life. I've made a lot of friends and seen many talented people who've gone through these doors," said Fons.

One longtime patron, who also performs at The Stud said he learned of the possible closure over the weekend.

"I was just shocked and sad and a little bit outraged," said Mica Sigourney who also lives in the neighborhood.

The owner of The Stud, Michael McElhaney, said it's time for him to sell the business because of the high rent and the desire to return to Hawaii to be with his elderly mother.

He says he wants to leave the business with new owners who will carry on the legacy of The Stud—a performance and gathering place for the LGBT community in the city.

"I have been deeply in love with this space and this bar and everything it represents in terms of the cultural heart of San Francisco that I see disappearing on a daily basis," said McElhaney.

Patron and performer Sigourney said he plans to meet with 15 community members including others in the nightlife industry later this week to try to form a co-op to buy the business.

"History is important to LGBT people because our history was invisible for so long. Now that we're allowed to have one, it's important to note the things that exist that we've had, said Sigourney.

Supporters hope that working with the city to designate The Stud as a historic landmark and legacy business will keep its doors open.
"We're going to form a united front and see what we can do," said Fons, the bartender.

The Stud recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Now, supporters say it's with a sense of disbelief that they are fighting to keep the business alive.