Valencia Spreads Fast

Another Queer Bar Forced Out of the Mission: The Lexington Club Is Being Sold

Lila Thirkield, the owner of the Lexington Club, has just announced that she will be selling her iconic queer bar. In an open letter, she admits that gentrification has pushed a portion of her clientele out of the neighborhood. The result of which has meant less business to sustain the bar, which has been simultaneously hit with rent increases.  Now she’s left but no choice but to sell the business.

She doesn’t say when it is being sold, or who the new owners will be. She also doesn’t say specifically when The Lexington Club will stop being the Mission’s last dyke bar.

It’s worth noting that just a few decades ago, the area around Valencia Street was San Francisco’s lesbian capital. But that time has passed. Valencia’s queer spaces were pushed out long ago, creating a real estate vacuum soon filled by upscale cocktail bars and artisan eateries. Now the street that was once so welcoming to the lesbian community is squeezing out what is left of it.

Emphasis added:

To My Dear Community –

It is with a heavy heart, great thought and consideration that I have made the very difficult decision to sell The Lexington Club.

Eighteen years ago I opened The Lex to create a space for the dykes, queers, artists, musicians and neighborhood folks who made up the community that surrounded it. Eighteen years later, I find myself struggling to run a neighborhood dyke bar in a neighborhood that has dramatically changed. A few years back my rent was raised to market rate, and though it was difficult, we seemed to weather it at first. But as the neighborhood continued to change, we began to see sales decline, and they continued to do so. We tried new concepts, different ways of doing things, but we were struggling. When a business caters to about 5% of the population, it has tremendous impact when 1% of them leave. When 3% or 4% of them can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood, or the City, it makes the business model unsustainable.

Please know that if I thought The Lexington Club could be saved, I would not be writing this. I understand what a huge loss this is to the community. It is difficult and painful to lose our queer spaces. However, my faith in queer San Francisco still runs deep. It is the best place in the world and dykes and queers are still an integral part of this city. They always will be. I have spent the better part of my adult life facilitating and creating community among dykes and queers in SF and I will not stop. The Lexington Club had an incredible eighteen-year run. It will forever live on in my heart, as I’m sure it will for many of you. To all who were a part of it - thank you for your contribution to a great chapter in San Francisco and a great chapter in my own life. And, of course, a huge thank you to my amazing staff. We made some incredible memories, and we will make more.

[Photo: shoegazer]

Comments (24)

I am a Bay Area lesbian who loved the Lex.  I am so sad to hear this.  I wish we could do a kickstarter to buy the place for you.  It has been a major catalyst for my relationships – reuniting me with friends, and creating new awesome connections.  I will certainly support any new endeavors for the next generation of lesbian community in SF.

If you set yourself up to serve only a small cross section of the populace

and not welcome others, don’t you invite this sort of this situation, by default?

Hows this different than a restaurant solely serving pescetarians ?

‘I wish we could do a kickstarter to buy the place for you.’

Oh the irony.

People who are bemoaning the loss really should have gone to the bar more.  


Did you read the article? It clearly states that the patrons of the bar have been pushed out of the area. It’s pretty hard to visit you’re favorite bar when rising rents push you out to Oakland or wherever. 

Reading comprehension. Give it a try!

Sorry. Your not you’re. I just woke up.

You’re an idiot.

That was meant for All Talk

I’m an idiot, too. I accept that. ;)

Cool your jets.

We know that youre the new comment gopher for the Mont, now that he has added responsibilities at Valleywag.

But cool your jets.

I ran a bar for people named Joe. It was great and now its not.

True story.

As an institution, it did have a reputation. And one part of that rep was that it was a pretty unfriendly atmosphere for cis-gendered men, no matter how queer they might be.

I loved it for this prickliness, but nevertheless this wasn’t a good recipe for building broad community support.

As a cis-gendered male, I never had much of a problem there. I liked to watch the occassional Giants game (I sought refuge there when Mission Street was exploding after the last World Series win), have Kat read my tarot cards and it was one of my fav places to take a date because no one would bother me. 

It’s a huge loss for the queer community and the neighborhood in general. 

My comment sounds callous. It is a great loss. It’s not as if ciswhitemans suffer a lack of places to “be themselves” in this town. Yours truly is just sensitive to mild shade, and is giving too much weight to third-party anecdote.

I actually thought the Lex was doing well and would be around for a long time…

The Lexington often kept the door  opened, and when I passed by there many times,  it looked like that it  continued to have a good amount of customers, so I’m not sure if the new people didn’t tip as well, or what.  

But yeah, it would be missed, and the fear of everything become plastic sameness is growing even for those who didn’t go to the Lexington

Can’t you all take o

ff your hats and “bemoan the loss” a sec without critiqueing each other or o

the place’s shortcomings? I remember Osento closing. The loss of any piece of dyke queer culture and possibility diminishes the community and city. Not just the queer community, either.

I don’t buy the note, seems like bullshit.  For one thing, she should have ended it with, so look forward to our new location in one of the shuttered shit holes on Geneva street or mission in the excelsior!  Or, relocating to way the fuck down third street or telegraph or fruitvale or wherever the fuck.  

In the early 2000’sies my then girlfriend moved, like so many did, from the mid-west to the city. She made the Mission her home. At this point she was in her 20’s, and so in true fashion, she made mischief and engaged in the messy process of exploring “what sort of queer am I?” This was an imperfect arc of development– as any authentic process ought be. That said, the lex was a place to gather, meet and express one’s self in both superficial and substantive ways. She benefitted greatly from this queer-centric-safe-space and many aspects of her identity began and ended with a connection to this place. 

Corporate colonizers and their high tech soldiers have been pushing out the creative and progressive members of San Francisco for 4 decades. Counter culture is now a set of commodities you can buy at chain store at head shops on Haight Street. 

In no way do I intend to offend anyone (which means I’m basically going to offend people, right?) but I would like to offer a different narrative than the ones I’ve been seeing online since the announcement of the Lex closing. Hopefully the tone of this is read positively and that the message isn’t about the Lex but more about the community.

Back when the Lex opened, San Francisco was a different city almost entirely. It was a place for the outcasts, queer, gay, whatever you want to label them and it was a safe place. It became a local haunt, got divey-er (is that a word?) as the years went on and more recently it’s become a place that has been failing for a few reasons.

Gentrification. If I hear this word one more time, I’m going to scream. Understandably, the neighborhood has changed. The city has changed. Times have changed and if businesses don’t evolve, they are doomed.

Yes, a lot of lesbians moved to Oakland. As a uhauling bunch, we have issue with staying put, not nesting, breaking up, trying to find roommates, and thus Oakland became a cheaper and more feasible option. However, just because seemingly ‘all’ the lesbians moved to Oakland, that doesn’t mean that ‘newer’ lesbians, perhaps slightly less ‘alternative’ but lesbian nonetheless have moved to the city – seeking out that same sense of safe place, community and acceptance as happened previously when the Lex first opened.

However, that newer group of lesbians finds the Lex completely unwelcoming. Based on my own personal experiences, trying no less than about 10x going there, trying to make it work, trying to like the place that seemed so ‘cool’ – but it was the same horrible experience every time.

What the Lex became is so far from the original purpose which is why I feel (not know) it’s now failing. The people who have been going there for years, working there, hanging out there made the place so uninhabitable for ‘new’ people or even non-locals visiting. All sitting around the bar, casing every person that walks in, chatting up their bartender friends who then didn’t serve anyone else. It seems liked you were walking into someone’s living room or a house party that you weren’t invited to. How could a business survive when it turns away the only people (besides the regular crew) that ever wanted to go and spend money there?

They needed to reinvent. Not with fancy drinks or using mason jars and endless succulent displays, but they needed to whip their staff into shape. Welcome the lesbians that haven’t found their way in the city. If they keep talking about the shrinking lesbian population, they must simply be talking about their own little clique of girls who have moved to Oakland because I still see plenty of lesbians aimlessly walking around the Castro in search of a hangout because they feel uncomfortable in the Lex.

People talk about the Lex now like you’d talk about an alcoholic who finally died. You don’t talk about the final years, you look at the Glory years. And yes, in its glory years it was vital to have a meeting place like this, where women/queers/trans all felt comfortable, but that comfort soon turned to clique and exes and everyone’s already slept with each other and it became a cesspool. Let’s also be frank, it’s dirty. It smells in there, it’s not accommodating for women to even use the disgusting restroom. Is that how you think you attract business and maintain customers?

I think it’s a good thing (hear me out) that the Lex is closing because it not only shows a sign of the times changing (NOT in a gentrification way) and now hopefully lesbians can come out of their dark hole, cliquey bullshit and actually socialize with one another in other bars/clubs, etc. There are so many lesbians in this city, not JUST the ones that all congregate around the pool table at the Lexington. We don’t all look alike. Some girls are femme, butch, etc etc etc, the labels go on for days – and now that the alcoholic has died, it’s time for this community to find new life in a new era. I have to also think that while rent was raised for this establishment, it could have easily ‘tried’ to do something a bit different to show the community it was versatile and not just stuck in its glory days, but I fear it won’t.

We deserve better than the Lex of current days. We deserve to treat each other with courtesy, respect and know that we’re all in this together. We’re all facing adversity, we’re all a minority and instead of creating tensions and clubhouses, we should be saying hi to each other and being nice or at least acknowledging each other with this gigantic chip on our shoulders.

I for one am happy to see what comes after the Lex closes and I hope that everyone can band together to support each other – even the clique crew that never welcomed us into that bar J

Extremely well-put Devils Advocate, thanks for bringing a sensible perspective.

This part from Devil’s Advocate is ON POINT:

The people who have been going there for years, working there, hanging out there made the place so uninhabitable for ‘new’ people or even non-locals visiting. All sitting around the bar, casing every person that walks in, chatting up their bartender friends who then didn’t serve anyone else. It seems liked you were walking into someone’s living room or a house party that you weren’t invited to.

I used to live in the Mission and can’t afford it anymore, so I stopped swinging by this bar for weekly beers, but even when I could I never felt particularly welcome if I didn’t know the bartenders well. I’m okay with the place being a dive, because QBar Tuesday dance party thing isn’t really my style. If you went on a particularly crowded night, getting a drink was impossible if you didn’t know a bartender. I tried to go two Saturdays ago and rage quit after not even being acknowledged at the bar for 20 minutes while the bartenders chatted up their friends. 

El Rio has been doing progressively better these last few years, and while it’s not exclusively a lesbian space, it’s lesbian owned and operated. Part of their success I’m sure is due to the amazing patio, but they’ve adapted to the times with great parties that are queer but welcome all kinds of people, queer karaoke nights, shows and one of the friendliest staffs in the Mission. 

The loss of SF’s only offical dyke space is another nail in the coffin for San Francisco’s queer culture and for all The Lex’s faults, I’m still sad about it. I hope a new lesbian bar will open, and The Lex isn’t replaced with yet another cocktail bar of reclaimed barn wood and Edison bulbs. 

RUFKM?  Seriously who gives a toss.  Before the Lex was a divey stinky lesbian bar it was a divey stinky Irish bar, dangerous even.  I believe it’s listed in a really old SFBG book about dive bars that I owned a long time ago.  Anyway, SF is only reverting to what it once was, and that is the people on this page and KevMo himself - screaming daily about this stuff…it just makes me lol.  SF is changing, get on the google bus or be gone, because you are seriously toast.