400 Castro Street
While the rumor mill had been grinding away, so to speak, as we first reported last week, the group doing business as RR-SF, Inc. (a.k.a. Randy Rooster) would be presenting their plans for the old Bank of America building at 400 Castro Street (a.k.a. the former Diesel store) to the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro this week.
While we took some heat for lagging behind other reports that a strip club was in the works for the space, in the words of one of the proposed Randy Rooster club’s co-owners: “The rumor mill has already started, so we are here to clear up the air.”
And in the words of the Bay Area Reporter with respect to RR-SF’s plans for 400 Castro:

“It will be an upscale restaurant and nightclub,” said co-owner Stephen Jones. “We want to bring a gay gentlemen’s club to the Castro.”

Jones later added that the entertainment would be in an “upscale burlesque style” that caters to the tastes of gay men. He likened it to the Crazy Horse in Paris, which opened in 1951 and bills itself as an “avant-garde cabaret,” and the gay nightclub The Abbey in West Hollywood.

While the famous Parisian nightspot features half-naked female performers, the San Francisco venue will not involve nudity, said Jones, adding that the business will be run with “dignity, honor and respect.”

RR-SF is reportedly in contract to buy the 400 Castro Street building for $7.7 million with another $6 million budgeted for the build-out of the Randy Rooster with hopes that it will become the flagship location for a chain of clubs.
Presenting The Real Plan For Raging On Castro Street [SocketSite]
Gay burlesque venue proposed for the Castro [ebar.com]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Miah

    This is terrific to hear. Just when it looked like the ebbing of gay-oriented establishments was inevitable, this possibility comes along. We still need gay bars (that is, until straight men can be graceful when hit on by the gays)!

  2. Posted by Dubocian

    This will only attract the bridge and tunnel crowd. And while they can’t have COMPLETE nudity — it’s prohibited in any alcohol-serving establishment — the earlier version of their web site, which they took down, made it clear that this will be a strip club.
    I think its a half-baked idea that will never see the light of day, nor should it. It will not bring retail shoppers to the neighborhood (indeed, it will not bring anyone to the neighborhood during the day when stores are open) and thus will not contribute to a lively pedestrian experience either. If you liked the puking drunks stumbling out of Trigger and Lime, you’ll love the Randy Rooster.

  3. Posted by wc1

    I like the way this sounds more than just the Chippendales for gay dudes, but I’m not convinced it will go over well here.
    Trigger tried the “upscale” gay bar thing and bombed. I’m not sure there are enough of the kind of customer here that this place would need to survive.

  4. Posted by cp

    Boys…it’s time the Castro leaves the mid 80’s. We need an establishment that feels a little more cool and sleek compared to the plethora of leather daddy bars. If you don’t like that vibe, go to the million other dingy dive bars that dot the city.
    It’s a tired look, and embarrassing when out of towners come to visit and the best we can for being a gay mecca is the closet-sized Q bar.

  5. Posted by Laura

    Gawd. Really? Sounds like a tacky remix of an idea that was trendy a decade ago. Why can’t we just have a big, beautiful restaurant with fantastic food and a great bar, without having to turn the Castro into the gay Fisherman’s Wharf?

  6. Posted by wc1

    @cp
    I’m not saying it shouldn’t go in or that I wouldn’t like to see something like that. I’m just questioning if there are enough of that kind of customer in the SF LBGT community that is interested in regularly going to a venue like that.

  7. Posted by uggh

    i like that they want to spend the money in the neighborhood, but count me among the many votes that thinks that this is a pretty undesirable thing to come to the corner.

  8. Posted by Rillion

    I have no problems with a venue that attracts the bridge and tunnel crowd. Personally I think it is a good thing to places that bring in people from out of town. I’d rather they spend their money here in SF then spend it a home.
    Also some of today’s bridge and tunnel crowd could be tomorrows resideents. When I was in college I used to drive an hour and half to come to visit the SF gay bars and clubs.

  9. Posted by the_biker_elite

    The people who could make a living at stripper wages were gentrified out of San Francisco in the mid-90’s. What are we going to do? Bus them in from the Valley? Maybe if we called it the “Zyga Twitter Stripper App” some of this latest crop of cute young aspiring programmers would take the bait?

  10. Posted by emanon

    Maybe you enlightened SF folks can clear a few things up for me. Say I live in Oakland and want to visit SF. Should I drive down to San Jose then up the peninsula to avoid what appears to be a very negative moniker? If I move to the peninsula and visit Frisco (opps! sorry, I mean San Francisco) can avoid the risk all together? What about Marin County and north of there. Hard to avoid the Golden Gate Bridge, but if I get off the freeway in Sausalito then back on at Alexander Drive, I at least avoid the Waldo Tunnel. Is being part of the “bridge crowd” a bit less onerous then being part of the “bridge and tunnel crowd”. I guess the opposite is true for Half Moon Bay. If I drive to SF via SR 1, I have to go through the new Devil’s Slide bypass tunnel becoming a part of the “tunnel crowd”. What about the tunnels IN San Francisco (Broadway, Stockton, MacArthur)? Are these to be avoided as well? Help out a poor rube from the sticks. BART has bridges AND tunnels. Should I take the ferry? Should I just stay home?

  11. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    @emanon: Bridge and tunnel isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. Go to the Matrix on Fillmore sometime, you’ll know what I mean.

  12. Posted by sjg

    Randy Rooster? Really?
    Maybe its just me, but I don’t equate that name with “upscale”. It sounds more like a cheap Vegas act. Burlesque really is a fancy name for stripping.
    Also, I am struck by the irony of all the kerfuffle over getting rid of nudists, only to open a strip club across the street from the plaza.

  13. Posted by etslee

    The stale Castro needs something to refresh it’s image, I don’t think it is this.

  14. Posted by Joe

    A lot of provincial hand wringing over a strip club down the block from several stores advertising giant plastic fists in their front windows…Oh, this will bring the neighborhood down!!!
    The castro bar scene has been in the decline for probably a decade, and a lot of that has to do with the same two people virtually owning every bar. Throw into that mix, the endemic inferiority complex that SF has which requires each bar to be a version of black spray painted plywood with black lights
    Try and have a nice well designed space and you have people screaming stop trying to be LA.. As if in SF we prefer our bars to be indistinguishable from the local public bus station restroom… Edgy!
    I welcome the opportunity to try something new in this oppressively opposed to change town. Also I love strippers. Bring it.

  15. Posted by emanon

    Thanks FDOTN, but I guess my sarcasm wasn’t clear enough.

  16. Posted by Rillion

    The decline in the bar scene is not because of the lack of diversity in bar owners, but due to the rise of internet dating/cruising. Guys aren’t flocking to the bars to meet new people as much as they used to. Not defending those two particular owners as I don’t particularly care for them. But, they aren’t responsible for the decline of the Castro bar scene, or the decline of the SOMA leather bar scene, or the decline of the Polk bar scene.

  17. Posted by grumpypants

    $7.7 M plus another $6M to renovate? That’s a lot of lap dances.

  18. Posted by Joe

    Really? You think that every single bar looking the same has nothing to do with only two people owning all of them?
    Yes some people prefer going online, but the packed bars in the castro on the weekend tell me that there is still a market for what they offer.

  19. Posted by frshmn

    ^LA, NY and Chicago all still have vibrant gay bars and nightlife despite the rise of social apps. Bars in the Castro are comparably dingy and rundown mostly from a lack of investment.
    SF is the nucleus of the Bay Area, even if you prefer to think you have nothing in common with the Oaklanders, San Mateoins and Walnut Creecians out there. The reason SF is a global city is not just for 800k in city limits, but for being the urban center of region of 7 Million plus.

  20. Posted by wc1

    NY, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong are global cities.
    SF is a lovely city like Boston or Barcelona, but it’s not a global city.

  21. Posted by Jack

    San Fran definitely isn’t in the top ten list of global cities, when people compile those semi meaningless IMHO lists. But it usually makes the top 20. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_city
    I think the global economic importance of Silicon Valley probably has a lot to do with it.

  22. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    Look, the Castro bar scene is suffering for a number of reasons.
    – Hookup Apps
    – The aging demographics of the area
    – The changing demographics of SF in general
    – The current car centric design of Castro St
    Look, 20 something gay men staring out their careers generally cannot afford the Castro, or SF in general, and are increasingly opting for neighborhoods farther out, the East Bay, or even the South bay since it’s closer to a lot of those tech jobs.
    Every 20 something gay man I know either lives a healthy commute from the Castro or in East Bay.
    Previous generations of gay men HAD to go to bars to meet, but with the rise of the internet and mobile apps this is no longer necessary and has impacted the gay bar scene in every major city.
    Walking in the Castro pretty much sucks. The width of street encourages cars to drive faster than they should and behave in ways which only adds to pedestrian stress. Additionally, the narrow sidewalks makes navigating the area annoying for many. The plan to put the Castro on a road diet and make it more pedestrian friendly should help with this.
    While SF will continue to attract the young and well employed the problem is when everyone is 20 something, earning the same, and working in the same industry this tends, tends, to have a homogenizing effect on the local culture.
    Meanwhile the ‘cool’ ‘edgy’ people, trends, and energy typical comes from the margins.
    When the only people living in city are all Ivy league graduates working in the same industries you get Cambridge MA not Brooklyn, NY.
    Things like ‘The Tenderloin National Forest’ were started by people living on the margins fighting to carve out some space for themselves. Not by comfortably employed college grads looking to purchase the latest in wine storage technology.
    Not that either is better than one over the other, but, traditionally, what made the GLBT scene so colorful and amazing were the struggling artists, musicians, and others at the margins finding creative solutions to solving life’s problems.

  23. Posted by futurist

    I knew somebody would eventually blame cars on the Castro bar scene.
    It’s a miracle no one thought of that sooner.
    Now I have a legitimate reason why I dislike the Badlands.

  24. Posted by lol

    Cars are people too my friend

  25. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    I did not blame cars, I blamed a car centric design of wide streets and narrow sidewalks which encourages increased driving speeds, and discourages pedestrians.
    All you have to do is compare the speeds of cars driving from Market to 18th and the speed of cars coming from 20th to 18th. Despite similar grades to the hills the cars coming from the narrower side of of 18th move slower and are able to react better to pedestrians.
    Also, you should notice that, sex shops not withstanding, the higher end shops are between 18th and 20th.
    ‘When you design around cars, you get more cars. When you design around people you get more people.’

  26. Posted by emanon

    BDB, what has changed along Castro Street between the 80’s and today regarding the roadway geometry making you think it’s any more car centric today than in the past. I’ve been visiting the neighborhood since then and haven’t noticed any changes in the number of lanes or the width of the sidewalks verses with of the vehicle lanes. I think that might be a false argument.

  27. Posted by futurist

    Yes, it is a false argument, once again, about cars being the villains.
    If anything, Market St. is much more pleasant with the medians and palm trees, and one few middle lane. Traffic has remained the same for at least 35 years and it still works very well. Market St. sidewalks are wide.
    There is no problem and cars are not the problem.

  28. Posted by lol

    futurist, do you understand the irony of a forward-looking moniker and statements such as “Traffic has remained the same for at least 35 years and it still works very well.”?
    Yes car traffic works pretty well, but pedestrian traffic doesn’t work at all. Time to take back the street.
    Are too many people walk on Castro street than is safely manageable? Widen the sidewalks as much as possible. Too bad if a few NV old codgers will have to spend an extra minute in their usual slingshot down Castro or 18th.
    They’re driving anyway and driving slower will not kill them. But unchecked motorized traffic in a heavy pedestrian environment actually kills pedestrians like the poor girl killed by a Muni bus taking a short-cut last year.
    People should come before cars.

  29. Posted by lol

    emanon,
    It’s not so much that cars are more present, but that the neighborhood is quickly densifying, and that it has also become a major destination.
    If an area is seeing 100 cars and 100 pedestrians at a certain point in time, then 30 years later it has 100 cars and 300 pedestrians, then the cars will be much more intrusive. They’ll be going as fast as before but brushing elbows much closer to pedestrians on over-saturated sidewalks. The street use has to be rebalanced to take this change into account.

  30. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    Ignoring the fact that the majority of the gay bars in the Castro are on Castro St and not Market St …
    If anything, Market St. is much more pleasant with the medians and palm trees, and one few middle lane. Traffic has remained the same for at least 35 years and it still works very well. Market St. sidewalks are wide.
    EXACTLY!
    The tree filled median removes a full lane of traffic for CARS in favor of PEOPLE pleasing trees.
    Why do you prefer that stretch of Market, because of the trees. Because you have a separated median that distances you form oncoming traffic and makes you, as a driver, feel safer. This reduces driver stress, which naturally reduces speed, which reduces accidents and make things better for YOU NOT YOUR CAR.
    And the benefits don’t stop there. Because drivers are driver slower and there are fewer accidents and honking horns means PEDESTRIANS feel safer which attracts MORE pedestrians to spend more money at local businesses.
    Oh and because there are fewer accidents and those accidents are less severe traffic flows better, which means drivers get to where they are going exactly when they expect too. Buses aren’t stuck behind a fender bender caused by someone trying to swerve around a slower moving car in front of them and they get to their destination as expected (assuming they were on time in the first place)
    So back to the corner of Market and Castro.
    The big gently curved corners, the four lane wide section of Castro St, and the narrow sidewalks encourages cars to drive quickly and places pedestrians closer to fast moving traffic, adding to their stress and making it less likely that they are going to spend time (and money) in that area.
    If, as planned, you alter the car centric design of Castro St in front of the Castro Theatre and instead make it people centric, to have wider sidewalks, greenery, and alter the corners with bulb outs that reduce pedestrian crossing time, and slow traffic around corners you end up with more PEOPLE.
    People, spend money at local businesses, shops, and … wait for it … bars.
    And since the city has made, Hayes Valley, Valencia St, Divisadero, and other areas more friendly to PEOPLE the business there are doing better and the Castro is competing with the new and improved neighborhoods.
    Finally, you are right, from a traffic perspective nothing has changed at that corner of Castro and Market for X number of years (well except for that little ‘malled’ area that the nudists like so much.)
    Which is why I listed the car centric design as one of SEVERAL factors that the Castro was suffering from not THE factor.
    But it is certainly the one factor that the Castro business owners have the most control over and are wisely doing something about to encourage PEOPLE to return to the bars.

  31. Posted by futurist

    Huh?

  32. Posted by futurist

    It’s not about “people should come before cars”. That makes no sense, from a functional point of view in a city with cars AND people.
    It’s that cars AND pedestrians AND cyclists must all work together to make better streets. That means sidewalk widening (in carefully selected areas)more street trees and greening, selected and carefully studied bike lanes (not all streets.
    And, lol: let’s please not forget about that elderly Asian man who was killed by a law breaking CYCLIST last year while the man was in the crosswalk.

  33. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    It’s that cars AND pedestrians AND cyclists must all work together to make better streets. That means sidewalk widening (in carefully selected areas)more street trees and greening, selected and carefully studied bike lanes (not all streets.
    Right, let’s move from a car-centric design to our city to a people-centric design.
    Instead of trying to figure out how we can get the highest number of cars as possible through the city as fast as possible focus on how we get the largest number of people through a city as fast as possible, whether they are walking, cycling, driving, or using public transit.
    So we are going to have to unwind some of the last 50 years or so of urban planning that focused on more and more parking, wider and wider roads, and wider and wider intersections to move more and more cars as fast as possible through a city at the cost of other modes of transportation.
    But the only way to do that is to take some of the space currently utilized by cars and give it back to people using other modes of transportation.
    So hopefully, the changes that are planned for the Castro will help the proposed restaurant/nightclub succeed.

  34. Posted by lol

    futurist,
    No I am not forgeting this tragedy, of course. But this raises a good point.
    I can tell you from experience that a bulb-out is a good reason for bicycles to slow down when approaching a crossing. Win-win.

  35. Posted by futurist

    Bulb-outs are great for making streets more ped friendly. I totally support them and have said so before.
    A bulb-out would NOT have prevented the cyclist from riding illegally and dangerously and thus, killing a pedestrian in the crosswalk, bulb-out or no bulb-out.
    Please do not try to connect urban design elements with creating safer and more intelligent cyclists. That’s almost offensive.

  36. Posted by anon2

    When an article about a new nightclub turns into ANOTHER discussion about how cars are ALSO the cause of Castro’s ills, one has to wonder if the anti car nuts shouldn’t give it a rest. Sometimes it is just possible that dingy bars and substandard shops and restaurants are a sign of a community that has grown a lot older and/or moved on. You could remove every car from Castro and it would still have the same tired bars and shops it has today.

  37. Posted by lol

    If street features are properly designed, they discourage certain behavior. I said “discourage”, not “prevent” of course. People are what they are. Design and law enforcement can only go so far.
    Smart crossing design doesn’t prevent a reckless guy from killing a pedestrian, but it reduces the probability.

  38. Posted by lol

    anon2,
    Today, the drug of choice is more and more caffeine, and a little less booze. Just look at how Peet’s and Starbucks are packed.

  39. Posted by anon2

    @lol, could not agree more, though I am an Intelligentsia guy myself, but can only get this fix in L.A., Chicago and NYC.
    I would just say that the Castro seems to have rested on its historic credentials and felt it did not need to change with the times while other cities have gone more upscale in their gay districts.

  40. Posted by badlydrawnbear

    @Anon2 ignoring the fact that I never stated cars were the problem.
    Honestly, I thought comparing SF to Cambridge MA was what was going to get all the attention.
    I never thought that just mentioning that the street design could be improved to better serve pedestrians would set off, what I can only assume, is a string of Polk St related posts.
    Especially considering that the Planning Department and the Castro Merchants Association agrees and is already moving to … wait for it … improve the street design for pedestrians.
    http://www.socketsite.com/archives/2013/01/the_castro_street_design_project_and_preliminary_concep.html
    Castro Street’s existing design does not adequately accommodate the needs of the thousands of residents and visitors who use the street every day. Pedestrian safety and comfort are of special concern given the high volume of pedestrians combined with narrow sidewalks and busy street intersections. The Castro/Upper Market community has actively pursued opportunities to improve Castro Street, including recent planning efforts such as the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District’s Neighborhood Beautification and Safety Plan and the San Francisco Planning Department’s Upper Market Community Plan.
    The Castro Street Design Plan will build off these previous efforts and develop a conceptual design that balances the needs of its users and enhances the street as one of San Francisco’s premier destinations for locals and visitors alike. The conceptual design will be used to define a first phase set of improvements to be built with funding coming primarily from the Road Repaving and Streets Safety Bond…

  41. Posted by NJ

    Castro St.’s restaurant scene is terrible. Lived close by for years and hardly went there. Further down Market, say around Church or 16th Sts., the restaurants are much better. And those areas are no better for pedestrians. It’s not the cars zooming down Castro — it’s just crappy restaurants, probably indicative of the folks who live there.

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