“The moths have eaten all my ostrich feathers from the spine, so that when I pull them out all the feathers fall out one by one,” says drag queen and restaurateur Juanita MORE! That’s a real bummer for someone who probably changes clothes multiple times per day, but the more salient bit isn’t the moths, it’s the act of eating.
Juanita, along with her business partner, food stylist Cole Church, has announced that she’s leaving Jones, the bar-and-restaurant in Lower Nob Hill that they all but commandeered last summer with opening chef Cory Armenta. It’s an amicable split, and Juanita will return to Jones in June for her annual Pride party. But after six months of packing patrons in at brunch and late at night, the chilaquiles sandwich and “Hangovah pizza” will presumably become a thing of the past, as of Feb. 28. In the meantime, there’s still a $35 Valentine’s Day Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 14, from 6-9 p.m., and two remaining Sunday drag brunches (Feb. 17 and 24).
“It was overwhelming to be running that restaurant and for me to be in drag full-time,” she tells SF Weekly. “It was two full-time jobs, and then I have a third full-time job, which is [her French bulldog] Jackson. And the fourth, which should really be the first, is as mother to a lot of kids in this city.
“Cole and I wanted to work on other projects and it’s that easy,” the adds. “Other opportunities are coming because of what I did at Jones, which is awesome.”
First, she’ll be teaching cooking classes (in drag) at Mission community kitchen and event space 18 Reasons, plus Humphry Slocombe will put out a Juanita-themed ice cream flavor in June. (The specific ingredients are under wraps.) Then, in May, MORE! and longtime LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones will travel to Cuba to celebrate Havana Pride, but only after throwing a big fundraiser in San Francisco to assist the queer population there.
Being partially open to the elements, Jones’ 8,000-square-foot patio inside the Gaylord Hotel can be a challenging space. It’s very large, and its three individual bars are curiously cash-only. Often referred to by its address, 620 Jones, it’s one of a small crop of prominent LGBTQ-operated nightlife spaces that opened in 2018, bucking a years-long trend of closures. So its loss will be felt. But even though MORE! acknowledged the difficulty of working the kitchen and the front-of-house simultaneously, it doesn’t seem as though she’s developed an immunity to the allure of a restaurant. Sup. Rafael Mandelman had expressed a desire for her to open another one, this time in the Castro.
Citing Church’s background at Zuni and Boulette’s Larder and the management lessons they jointly learned, MORE! says they can probably figure it out. Working together every day for six months, their partnership only solidified.
“I was in the kitchen all day and then I got home and got into drag and hosted all night,” she says. “It was like, ‘Oooh, girl! You worked today!’ But you rest up and you do it again. My passion for both those things gives me a lot of energy and keeps me going.”
Jones, 620 Jones St. (inside the Gaylord Hotel), 620-jones.com