SAN FRANCISCO: City’s Oldest Gay Bar Closes After 58 Years, Will Become Kung Fu-Themed Laundromat

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The sun has quietly set on the Gangway, San Francisco’s oldest continuously operating gay bar. Bookending an ownership saga that started two years ago, the transfer of the bar’s liquor license became final on Friday, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. On Sunday, the historic establishment hosted its final night of revelry.

Sam Young, the owner of the sometimes controversial bar Kozy Kar only a few blocks away, will take over the space at 841 Larkin St., according to the filing. The cumbersome name for his new venture is Kung Fu Action Theater & Laundry, which Young last year said would be a place where people can do laundry and watch kung fu movies. It won’t be a bar, he said, despite the location’s liquor license.

There’s a lengthy bar history at 841 Larkin St. The address has been home to a drinking establishment of some kind since 1910, 51 years before the Gangway began publicly identifying as a gay bar. With its shuttering, the Gangway joins a long roster of now-closed gay bars in the city, a trend some attribute to changing San Francisco demographics, gentrification and, even more simply put, acceptance of LGBT people in the wider community.

The decision to sell the Gangway began back in 2016 after its owner was socked with fines for underpaying his bartenders.

  • JT

    Right. Let’s sacrifice history for the latest fad.

    • iambu

      I must’ve missed the boat on Kung Fu laundry. I’m so unhip…

      • gaycuckhubby

        I don’t know. If I had to use a laundromat one that showed kung fu movies wouldn’t be a bad idea.

        • Acronym Jim

          It’s all fun until someone gets slapped in the face with wet towels being used as nun-chucks.

          • gaycuckhubby

            Tide pods being used as throwing stars

          • Acronym Jim

            A completely different kind of Tide pod challenge.

        • clay

          Just so long as it’s not Fox News . . .

        • Librarykid

          Kick Ass Laundry?

      • james1200

        It’s all the rage, along with those restaurants that serve brunch while showing hardcore porn.

        • clay

          “WHAT did I say?!?!?!? NO screens at the table!!!!!”

      • Librarykid

        I wonder if it’s related to most of our washing machines being made in Asian countries; Kung Fu he Laundry?

  • What a crock of shit. 🙁

  • Bluto

    We’re largely victims casualties of our own successes.

    • gaycuckhubby

      I wouldnt say victims

      • Bluto

        What’s a better word, casualties?

        • JCF

          Keep it cazh!

    • ChrisKOne

      I wouldn’t mind as much us gay people losing our culture if we had our full civil rights, of course we don’t have on the national level. So I feel that we’re being culturaly gaslighted these days.

  • gaycuckhubby

    I cant remember the last time I was at an exclusively gay bar

    • William

      Halloween, 2016.

      • licuado de platano

        Ahhhhh. What a glorious time… that week between the Cubs winning the World Series and the election disaster. When everything was briefly alright in this world.

  • misterjack

    The Millennials need another place to stand around, staring at their iPhones.

    • Do Something Nice

      Except this has nothing to do with Millennials.

      • Jeffrey Robert

        And which demographic do you feel this new establishment will cater to?

    • HZ81

      When there’s an app that makes me a dirty martini, they’ll have me, too! Damn this progress!!

    • Judas Peckerwood

      Most of the people I see glued to their phones are Boomers and Gen-Xers.

  • kareemachan

    You know, a tavern/laundrymat made sense when I lived in Kodiak. Fishermen would come in from weeks at sea and need to do laundry and also drink a LOT. But… SF? Kung fu? WTF?

    • William

      A bar filled with fishermen would be a good place to hole up during a bear alert.

      • kareemachan


        Also, the bartender kicked all the guys out one time for her friend’s birthday stripper dance. (Friend, female, stripper, male)

        My boyfriend was kicked out and very jealous about all the hooting, clapping, and laughter coming from inside the bar. Ah, good times… 😉

  • Stephen Elliot Phillips

    If our current political trajectory holds, the gay bars will be back…..
    If not also the closets, and unfortunately the box cars

    • William

      “Please settle your tab before we reach the camp.”

      • Stephen Elliot Phillips

        cash only……sorry.

        • Robincho

          Gold rings and teeth are also acceptable…

  • james1200

    “Gay bar closes…will become a kung fu laundromat.”

    I don’t quite know what to do this, lol.

  • gaycuckhubby

    An important lesson here. Don’t underpay your staff!

  • Leo

    Forget the gay bar closure for a second, sorry. Kung Fu Action Theater & Laundry will have enough business in SF to pay the insane rent? Really?

    • gaycuckhubby

      Hell yeah they will. I actually think it sounds like a great business plan

      • Leo

        It IS a great business plan. Sounds exactly like a 4chan stoner’s fever dream. That’s not the point. I still don’t think it’ll be enough.

        • gaycuckhubby

          Perhaps not. I think it has a better chance of survival than the bar would

        • They need to show a mix of Kung Fu, Godzilla and anime movies. If they are targeting Millennials, they grew up addicted to anime, and would love to see some of the older movies again.

          • pch1013

            If they promise to show “Kung Fu Hustle” on a loop, I would go out of my way to wash my clothes there.

    • PickyPecker

      Godzilla movies would make more sense to me.

    • boatboy_srq

      If a laundry/cafe/bar/performance-space called Brain Wash can make it there, this place can.

    • Gigi

      The liquor license was transferred so maybe they’ll make good coin selling drinks to millennials drowning their sorrows while paying $5 for a wash and being high-kicked by men in form fitting karate outfits.

    • Do Something Nice

      Yes. So many laundromats have closed, so while I hate losing yet another gay bar, a laundromat is a badly needed resource.

      • William

        Face it Vera, you’re strictly wash and wear these days.

    • Rambie

      I could see a Theater/Laundry that serves liquor a sucess. I don’t know why they are limiting it to Kung Fu movies only though. I could see theme nights being a good draw in a variety of genres.

  • DaddyRay

    Maybe the Kung fu laundromat can teach millennials to punch nazi money launderers

  • PickyPecker
    • yes b’y

      Wow, I made it to 1:01.

    • prixator

      This is one of the songs that is part of my earworm collection. It occasionally returns to my head, but I have long ago changed some words so that it makes me laugh instead of cringe:

      Everybody was kung fu typing, those clicks were fast as lightning. It was a little bit frightening, to see no whiting

  • Acronym Jim

    I initially read that as the Gangway being replaced with a Kung Fu restaurant. I thought, what the hell is that? A restaurant whose signature dish is made with grasshoppers?

  • JoeMyGod

    The Gangway is in a part of the Tenderloin District that the city officially renamed “Little Saigon” back in 2004.

    • JDS


      • pch1013

        Those two blocks are mostly lined with Vietnamese restaurants.

  • boatboy_srq

    The unqueering of The City continues.

  • gaycuckhubby

    If long standing gay bars stay open or not depends on whether gay people feel accepted in traditionally straight places and whether straight people feel comfortable in traditionally gay places. 
    More and more that is happening.
    At this point bars will be successful based on their own merits. Not whether they are gay or not.
    If they have friendly staff, provide great service, provide drinks at reasonable prices, have a good location, have good music, have good environment they will be successful.
    If they’re only selling point is that it’s a gay establishment they will fail.

    • William

      Until you ask the wrong guy to dance.

    • CanuckDon

      Hopefully, it will not be a question of whether we feel accepted but come down to the question of whether this place suits our taste. Does this place feel like it’s catering to some of my interests and needs or do I have to toss out what I like just to have a place to go?

    • scorpiomike

      Completely agree. I love gay bars where I feel freedom to relax and be me. But the only remaining gay bar where I live allows smoking inside, is always dirty, has mediocre beer selection, and plays crappy music. I still go on occasion, but generally choose better places.

  • CanuckDon

    For years, the common argument for gay bar closings is that we can go anywhere with the wider acceptance of LGBT. I hear that mostly from those who are partnered and, yes, going out to any restaurant or bar when you have a partner to chat and flirt with promises to be enjoyable.

    But when you’re single, things are different. If you’re going out with a group of friends, that can be enjoyable anywhere but if it’s a Friday night, no one’s available to go out and you’re determined not to stay home, the single gay guy now has the choice of looking for someone online or going to a bar where he may not know anyone and also be in one where he will feel comfortable.

    Or he can just stay home. And other single guys, just like him, stay home too.

    • gaycuckhubby

      And there’s a generation gap with those single guys. A lot of my friends in their 20s have no problem going out to a straight or mixed bar by themselves

      • CanuckDon

        We’ll see how they feel when they’re out of their 20s and not partnered.

      • pch1013

        As two fifty-*mumble* gay men, my SO and I find ourselves increasingly drawn to bars outside the usual SOMA/Castro circuit – the Castro bars are too crowded, and the SOMA bars are too far from Duboce Triangle, where he lives.

  • Stogiebear

    Could have done what the Hidden Door here in Dallas did — bar next door to a laundromat eventually bought the laundromat and knocked down the wall between the two. Left some of the machines so folks could do their laundry while they cruised and got shit-faced. Haven’t been there in years so they may have remodeled since then.

    • Bomer

      Never went to the Hidden Door, but there used to be a bar across from Fair Park called the Bar of Soap that was a bar and laundromat. Got drunk at that one while doing my laundry once.

    • Librarykid

      the Cruise-O-Matic Automatic Laundry

    • R W C

      The Hidden Whore, err Door, does not care if your clothes are clean or dirty these days. The novelty of doing laundry and drinking has been replaced by the novelty of getting your drink drugged.

    • Charlie In SF

      We had that, it was called Brain Wash, it was on Folsom and it just closed

  • geoffalnutt

    “Kick you cloths clean – chop them dry! Open 24 hours.”

  • Paula

    A kung Fu themed laundromat? o-0

    • #DJTK5F

      SOCK! POW!

    • edrex
      • JCF

        Oy, this commercial. On the one hand: Every. “Chinee”. Stereotype.Under.the.Dragon.Sun. }-p

        On the other: the audience is invited to ID w/ the wife—a white audience, to identify WITH this Asian woman. Perhaps a first, for the time. So, on balance: one step back, but two steps forward. JMO.

        • edrex

          btw. i completely agree.

    • It sounds much better than the nasty sort of laundromats I grew up with.

  • misterjack

    I can’t imagine the Millennial children having the attention span to watch ‘some old Kung-Fu movie.’

    • TominDC

      Do you really need any sort of attention span to watch old kung fu movies?

    • I do not understand the trashing of Millennial’s. I spawned 4 boys, 2 of which are Millennial’s and they are all hard working, long attention spanned upstanding fellas. And it’s just not my boys, but their friends are all cut from the same mold as well.

      • Jeffrey Robert

        It might help to look at literally any previous generation in the last 120 years and you will see the older generations confused and complaining about the younger generation. For goodness sake, I’ve EARNED my right to bitch and moan and I’m not going to pass up my chance. The kids will have theirs soon enough. For now, let them learn how to put up with people who disagree. It is a very valuable lesson to master.

  • mikemmiv
  • Lars Littlefield

    Yet another watering hole for gays bites the dust. RIP Gangway.

  • TheManicMechanic

    As they say in Hong Kong, “Phooey.”

  • R W C

    O/T: The Castro location of the GLBT History Museum was once a laundromat with a cruisy reputation.

  • Pip

    It’s sad to see our bars disappearing. I know some would argue that the “inclusive climate” makes them we’re in makes them unnecessary, but I would argue that there are plenty of reasons why we still need places with like experienced folks to lament with.

    • gaycuckhubby

      I kinda agree… but it would appear they just didn’t have enough clientele or were just badly managed

      • stevenj

        “The decision to sell the Gangway began back in 2016 after its owner was socked with fines for underpaying his bartenders.”

        “….the Gangway joins a long roster of now-closed gay bars in the city, a trend some attribute to changing San Francisco demographics, gentrification and, even more simply put, acceptance of LGBT people in the wider community.”

        • gaycuckhubby

          I agree with all those points then 🙂

      • pch1013

        That, and the Tenderloin is way off the beaten track for 20-something gay men and their screaming girlfriends – who are the main clientele of gay bars in SF these days.

        • juanjo54

          Really? Have you walked down Larkin Street recently? There are a number of trendy places there – clubs, art spaces, restaurants and even a few clubs. From Ellis Street up to Polk, there has been a slow but steady encroachment into the area. It is still sketchy but it is happening.

    • CanuckDon

      I think what we’re seeing currently is a younger generation busy patting themselves on the back at the “progress” of going anywhere and doing away with gay-centric establishments. The problem is that there’s a lack of awareness and honour of the vibrant environments that developed within our bars of the past. Our varied personalities flourished within them because, to paraphrase Panti Bliss, we didn’t have to check ourselves there. Out in the mainstream, I’m certain that many of us still catch ourselves doing that….particularly those in smaller cities.

      • Pip

        There are so many of this younger generation that is so dead set on not labeling themselves and looking down on those who do. Why be Gay or Lesbian, embrace Queer if you simply must label yourself. Why go to a bar that is Gay or Lesbian, just go to a bar and find your clique there instead. It’s sad because there doesn’t seem to be that personality at straight bars that I always find in gay and lesbian bars. There are people trying to blend instead of just being their fantastic selves. You have to wade through the dude bros and women who’ll kiss anything that moves once the alcohol is flowing to find those who you really want to mingle with. It’s just sad to me.

  • JWC

    “Another one gone, another one gone, another one bites the dust” It’s sad, but times are changing. These wonderful old palaces no longer fit the scene(sadly) . We have to pick up our memories and walk away A new generation will not know what they missed,they will find theirs in some form of media I suppose

  • Ore Carmi

    Laundromats have themes?

  • sfmike64

    The Gangway was a sad, dump of an alcoholic’s bar. The kind where the bartender would gladly cash your paycheck.

    The regulars did NOT appreciate the young gay tourists impinging on their space I”m 53 and I was considered young in this bar). It was not a very nice place or much fun. I just found it sad.

    Now if Aunt Charlie’s is forced to close, THAT will be a tragedy.

    • R W C

      DJ Bus Station John rocks Aunt Charlie’s Lounge!