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City designates cultural status to queer leather district

South of Market to officially become a LGBTQ district

Photo by Eddie Hernandez Photography

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to establish an LGBTQ leather cultural district in the South of Market neighborhood.

A cultural-district designation by the city would, ideally, help preserve the neighborhood’s character by fighting increasing rents, helping boost longtime businesses, and preserve the history of the neighborhood. After all, the district hosts two annual sex-fetish themed festivals: Folsom Street Fair and Up Your Alley Fair.

That said, the neighborhood is a sliver of what it once was in the queer community. The neighborhood has been known more for its tech outfits, craft cocktail bars, and luxury condos than for its whip-cracking past.

Leather bars that used to populate Folsom Street have been reduced to two—Powerhouse [NSFW] and Hole in the Wall Saloon. Bathhouses washed away during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. And spots like Rawhide, My Place, Ritch Street Health Club (a.k.a. the Ritch Street Baths), just to name a few, are ghosts of the past.

But all isn’t lost in the city’s most randy district. Entertainment venues like Blow Buddies [NSFW], Folsom Gulch, Wicked Grounds, and Mr. S Leather remain intact. Oasis, Heklina’s nightclub/cabaret, proved a phenomenal success and squashed ill-conceived notions that nightlife in San Francisco is dead. And the Stud, popular nightclub on Harrison, turned into a successful co-op business after it almost shuttered.

Next up, the city will consider designating the Castro as a cultural district.