San Francisco has its fair share of gay bars, but only one lesbian bar: the Lexington Club*. But very soon, it will have none at all. After 18 years, the Lexington Club's owner, Lila Thirkield, posted on Facebook that "with a heavy heart, great thought and consideration...I have made the very difficult decision to sell The Lexington Club." She cites the city's ongoing gentrification, and the departure of much of the gay Mission community that frequented the Lex, as making her business unsustainable. "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."
In a follow-up interview with 48 Hills, Thirkield says that the bar has already been purchased by "an undisclosed buyer," who likely won't keep things as-is. Before making the sale, she reached out to a few prominent lesbians who might have been interested in purchasing the Lex, but no one bit. In addition to the ongoing narrative of Mission gentrification, Thirkield says economic inequality for women is also to blame for the bar's demise: "Even if you take queerness out of it, women make less money than men and a two male household is going to have more capital potential to start a business than a two female household. How many bars or restaurants do you see being run by women? So few. And that's just the supply side. Because women have less disposable income and consume less than men, the spending power isn't the same when you are talking about having a bar for mostly women."
Thirkield plans to keep the Lex open until early next year, after which she'll shift focus to Virgil's Sea Room, the Bernal bar she helped open last year. She also plans to hold onto the Lexington Club name and website, and throw occasional events under that banner. But for the local lesbian community, and the Mission in general, this is undeniably a huge loss. And with Esta Noche also having departed, the Mission no longer has a true gay bar.
* Wild Side West in Bernal Heights, the city's only other contender for this title, has a strong LGBT history, but is generally considered to be more of a mixed bar these days.