Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, the longstanding drag dive in the Tenderloin, is at risk of going out of business by August, Hoodline reports. Originally founded in 1987, when it was just one of many LGBTQ stops in the city’s bustling nightlife scene, it’s now the last gay bar in the neighborhood, known for old-school drag shows and disco parties with decked-out participants well into their 70s.
The bar has been shuttered since the region’s shelter-in-place order was enacted in March. According to a fundraising page set up on behalf of the business, the owner applied for a Paycheck Protect Program (PPP) loan, but only received a “fraction of the requested funds,” and has been paying rent and utilities out of his own pocket. “Without your financial support, Aunt Charlie’s will not survive and will close for good on August 1st,” the page reads.
The fundraising goal is set at $100,000, and as of publication it’s at nearly $60,000, so it is possible that Aunt Charlie’s could pull through. But it’s a sad last stand for this neighborhood, and a concerning trend across the city, given the precariousness of LGBTQ bars in San Francisco. Most recently, the Stud lost its home, orphaning the oldest queer bar in the city. A couple of years ago, the Gangway closed after nearly a century, previously holding that title. Five years ago, the Lexington Club went out with a final dance party, folding the oldest lesbian bar in the city.
In an effort to weather the coronavirus, bars are now allowed to serve cocktails to go, but they also have to serve food. Aunt Charlie’s has never served meals, so — unless they partner with a food vendor — there’s no possibility it could do takeout, and why would it? The great drag dives of San Francisco aren’t known for their craft cocktails and fancy snacks. It’s about atmosphere, and regulars love this old broad for her character.