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SF's Oldest Gay Bar Will Seriously Become a 'Kung Fu' Laundromat

Kozy Kar’s owner has applied to take over the Gangway

Kevin Y./Yelp

A new owner for San Francisco’s oldest gay bar, The Gangway, may soon make it over as a laundromat with a kung fu theme, of all things. According to a pending liquor license transfer first spotted by the Chronicle, Sam Young, who owns the Boogie Nights-inspired Polk Street dive bar Kozy Kar, has plans to take over the bar at 841 Larkin, where the nautical Gangway opened in 1910 and came out, so to speak, as a gay establishment in 1961.

Current owner Jung Lee has tried to sell the bar before, though unsuccessfully, and a bartender tells Eater that no money has changed hands on the current deal. Young declined to speak to the Chronicle and has scrupulously avoided contact with Eater, but confirmed to SFist that the name of the business on his transfer application — Kung Fu Action Theater & Laundry — isn’t some kind of ruse. Young sincerely wants to open an actual laundromat in an area that doesn’t have many of them, one that would also screen kung fu movies for patrons waiting on their laundry. It’s not clear how the proposed laundromat would put The Gangway’s liquor license to use, if at all.

One could call Kozy Kar (1548 Polk at Sacremento) another film-focused business, in the sense that it plays 1970s porn on loop. “Custom vans, eight track players, CB radios, waterbeds, chain steering wheels, shag, mirrored ceilings, [and] van bar seats” are “just some of the amenities,” Kozy Kar advertises on its website, where it also flaunts negative Yelp reviews. “This place is gross and weird. I hate it,” one quoted reviewer declares, “I would give it 0 stars if I could” reads another. In 2009, the bar drew criticism for going so far as to post photos of negative Yelp reviewers in an effort to shame them. That didn’t appear to bother Young. “The more that is written about kozy kar, the more popular it will become,” he wrote in Eater’s comments section at the time. “There is no such thing as bad press.” In 2015 patrons criticized a sign at the bar that joked about date rape — that might have been bad press.

To be sure, The Gangway is a salty bar in its own right. Like Aunt Charlie’s on Turk Street, it’s a holdover from a time when the Tenderloin held its own vibrant gay scene, and like much of the neighborhood, it’s a little rough around the edges. A deal to sell the bar materialized last year but later fell through. That gives morning bartender John David a bit of hope. “We’ve been here before, an we’re not closing just yet,” he tells Eater.

These days, says David, the Gangway is “a busy neighborhood” spot. “Everybody’s here, everyone from the Uber yuppies to the older veterans. It’s a come as you are sort of place.”

“I can’t tell the future, but nothing will change until at least the end of the August,” he reassures patrons.

The Gangway

841 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (415) 776-6828