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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Eagle Tavern Closure: Hundreds Protest at Meeting, But Future Looks Dim

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 12:04 AM

click to enlarge S.F. Supervisor Bevan Dufty speaking at the Eagle last night.
  • S.F. Supervisor Bevan Dufty speaking at the Eagle last night.
Hundreds of supporters gathered at the Eagle Tavern last night to try to stop the closure of the beloved gay bar and live music venue later this month. But despite ambitious plans -- and lots of passion from patrons who said they'd treasured the Eagle community for decades -- the future of the iconic, 30-year-old leather bar at 12th and Harrison streets looks dim at best.

Last night, those with the most knowledge of the Eagle's situation seemed the least optimistic about saving it. The owners, John Gardiner and Joe Banks, had arranged a deal last year to transfer the lease to Eagle manager Ron Hennis and Lila Thirkield, owner of the Lexington Club. But before that deal could go through, the owner of the property decided he wanted to start a bar there himself, and wouldn't allow the current owners to transfer the lease.

"He saw an opportunity to start his own business here," Thirkield said. "He blew up that entire deal."

Now, the Eagle has been given notice to shut down by the owner, reportedly a thirtysomething resident of Santa Rosa who inherited the property from family. Asked last night whether there was any hope in keeping the place open after the end of this month, Gardiner said simply, "I don't think so." He said the owner refused last year to lease the property to Hennis and Thirkield -- but was apparently willing to lease it to the owner of the Skylark, a bar on 16th Street between Valencia and Mission.

That bad news didn't stop the hundreds of leather-clad men and rock 'n' rollers from coming out last night to try to keep the Eagle alive. The passionate meeting saw participants shouting ideas for stopping the closure, including a "sleep-out" near the venue, and showing up at the landlord's house. Afterwards, about 30 supporters marched to 16th and Mission toward the Skylark.

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Ian S. Port

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