On Monday, Jan. 25, San Francisco’s Land Use and Transportation Committee, a panel composed of city supervisors, unanimously approved a resolution to make the SF Eagle bar a historic landmark with a recommendation for passage. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the resolution next month. If the landmark designation is approved, the SF Eagle will be the first historic landmark in San Francisco dedicated to the leather community.
According to Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District Board President Bob Goldfarb, there is some hope the historical landmark designation will help the bar survive the pandemic. The resolution is also intended to signify the community’s appreciation for this much-loved watering hole.
“Having landmark status, for any business that is historic, will help them get by in the future,” he says. “It’s always been an important place to be, and it’s a great place to socialize, hang out with friends, and meet people.”
The SF Eagle is part of an international series of Eagle establishments catering to the kink community. According to the SF Eagle website, there are Eagle locations in at least nine countries and 15 states. The SOMA district predates the Castro district as a famed LGBTQ gathering place, and SF Eagle is one of the remaining gay establishments along the Folsom St. “Miracle Mile” where there were once more than 50 iconic LGBTQ businesses. The bar is probably best known for it’s Sunday $12 beer busts, which have made the bar a particularly popular meeting spot.
If the Board of Supervisors vote to approve the resolution, the Historic Preservation Commission must take up the resolution within 90 days. After that, the Board of Supervisors will have a final vote to make the SF Eagle an official historic landmark. Goldfarb says he hasn’t seen any pushback against the resolution thus far.
Supervisor Matt Haney introduced the resolution during a Board of Supervisors Meeting on Dec. 15, and the Cultural District’s board has been advocating for the proposal since. In preparation for the hearing the Cultural District had collected letters and petition signatures in support. Multiple supporters called into the hearing as well.
One caller, identifying himself as David, demonstrated the bar’s impact on the community. “I’m a 72-year-old gay man who lives alone since my husband died, and it’s my habit to go every Sunday, almost religiously, to the Eagle beer busts,” he said. “It’s really home for me on Sunday.”
The SF Eagle has had a tumultuous last decade. In 2011 the bar was converted into an upscale restaurant, to the dismay of many LGBTQ organizers. In 2013, it was purchased by a new set of owners, Lex Montiel and Mike Leon, who pledged to keep the location a gay bar. In 2016 the Planning Commision voted in favor of a plan to make the street directly outside SF Eagle a leather-themed public park titled “Eagle Plaza,” though the plans took three years to reach the Board of Supervisors and were only signed by Mayor London Breed in February 2019. In September of 2020 the building which houses the SF Eagle was listed for sale, though there isn’t currently any indication that the new landlord will displace its current tenants.
The bar, like all bars in San Francisco, has struggled with a lack of revenue during the pandemic. Anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 people typically came in and out of the bar for major events, Montiel told ABC7. Montiel launched the SF Eagle Family Fund on March 21 to support furloughed employees.