A different narrative regarding the Lexington Club’s impending closure

A commenter named “Devil’s Advocate” left the following analysis in the comments section of last week’s post about economic gender inequality in SF being partially responsible for the Lex’s closure:

In no way do I intend to offend anyone (which means I’m basically going to offend people, right?) but I would like to offer a different narrative than the ones I’ve been seeing online since the announcement of the Lex closing. Hopefully the tone of this is read positively and that the message isn’t about the Lex but more about the community.

Back when the Lex opened, San Francisco was a different city almost entirely. It was a place for the outcasts, queer, gay, whatever you want to label them and it was a safe place. It became a local haunt, got divey-er (is that a word?) as the years went on and more recently it’s become a place that has been failing for a few reasons.

Gentrification. If I hear this word one more time, I’m going to scream. Understandably, the neighborhood has changed. The city has changed. Times have changed and if businesses don’t evolve, they are doomed.

Yes, a lot of lesbians moved to Oakland. As a uhauling bunch, we have issue with staying put, not nesting, breaking up, trying to find roommates, and thus Oakland became a cheaper and more feasible option. However, just because seemingly ‘all’ the lesbians moved to Oakland, that doesn’t mean that ‘newer’ lesbians, perhaps slightly less ‘alternative’ but lesbian nonetheless have moved to the city – seeking out that same sense of safe place, community and acceptance as happened previously when the Lex first opened.

However, that newer group of lesbians finds the Lex completely unwelcoming. Based on my own personal experiences, trying no less than about 10x going there, trying to make it work, trying to like the place that seemed so ‘cool’ – but it was the same horrible experience every time.

What the Lex became is so far from the original purpose which is why I feel (not know) it’s now failing. The people who have been going there for years, working there, hanging out there made the place so uninhabitable for ‘new’ people or even non-locals visiting. All sitting around the bar, casing every person that walks in, chatting up their bartender friends who then didn’t serve anyone else. It seems liked you were walking into someone’s living room or a house party that you weren’t invited to. How could a business survive when it turns away the only people (besides the regular crew) that ever wanted to go and spend money there?

They needed to reinvent. Not with fancy drinks or using mason jars and endless succulent displays, but they needed to whip their staff into shape. Welcome the lesbians that haven’t found their way in the city. If they keep talking about the shrinking lesbian population, they must simply be talking about their own little clique of girls who have moved to Oakland because I still see plenty of lesbians aimlessly walking around the Castro in search of a hangout because they feel uncomfortable in the Lex.

People talk about the Lex now like you’d talk about an alcoholic who finally died. You don’t talk about the final years, you look at the Glory years. And yes, in its glory years it was vital to have a meeting place like this, where women/queers/trans all felt comfortable, but that comfort soon turned to clique and exes and everyone’s already slept with each other and it became a cesspool. Let’s also be frank, it’s dirty. It smells in there, it’s not accommodating for women to even use the disgusting restroom. Is that how you think you attract business and maintain customers?

I think it’s a good thing (hear me out) that the Lex is closing because it not only shows a sign of the times changing (NOT in a gentrification way) and now hopefully lesbians can come out of their dark hole, cliquey bullshit and actually socialize with one another in other bars/clubs, etc. There are so many lesbians in this city, not JUST the ones that all congregate around the pool table at the Lexington. We don’t all look alike. Some girls are femme, butch, etc etc etc, the labels go on for days – and now that the alcoholic has died, it’s time for this community to find new life in a new era. I have to also think that while rent was raised for this establishment, it could have easily ‘tried’ to do something a bit different to show the community it was versatile and not just stuck in its glory days, but I fear it won’t.

We deserve better than the Lex of current days. We deserve to treat each other with courtesy, respect and know that we’re all in this together. We’re all facing adversity, we’re all a minority and instead of creating tensions and clubhouses, we should be saying hi to each other and being nice or at least acknowledging each other with this gigantic chip on our shoulders.

I for one am happy to see what comes after the Lex closes and I hope that everyone can band together to support each other – even the clique crew that never welcomed us into that bar 

Also of note, this comment was followed by three more:

  1. “Thank you for writing this. The Lexington has not been a good bar for a while.”
  2. “This was excellent. Thank you.”
  3. “Great reply. Thank you.”

If you’re not aware, it’s rare for a comment on this blog to receive so much positivity.

[Photo by Lexington Club on Instagram]

30 Responses to “A different narrative regarding the Lexington Club’s impending closure”

  1. anadromy says:

    I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to the Lex. It seems pretty common. A bar–straight, gay or otherwise–gets popular. People attach themselves to it and form a clique-ish attitude about who “belongs” there and who doesn’t. This attitude calcifies and over time, the people inside the bar become unwelcoming dicks. (it doesn’t help that the people who give off this attitude are the type of people who spend a lot of time in bars–ie: alcoholics) Potential new customers are scared off. Slowly but surely, the bar’s business wanes and eventually, it closes and everybody laments the passing of another longstanding institution.

  2. MPetrelis says:

    I’m gonna say it: gentrification. Now, please, scream as promised if you heard the word one more time!

    If you’re pissed off, #VotePetrelis!

    • Tired Young Queen says:

      Go away.

    • Luis says:

      I fail to see how the closure of a mostly white lesbian bar that opened in a mostly Latino neighborhood is being closed due to gentrification, especially since the mostly white lesbian bar provided the right amount of whiteness in a Latino neighborhood to make other white people feel “safe.” Yes, it’s sad that the only dyke bar in SF is closing. But gentrification?! It was part of the first wave!!!
      If you want to talk gentrification, let’s talk about the closure of esta noche and not the lex.

      • RP says:

        The Lex opened in ’96, which was not the beginning of gentrification in the Mission.

        But it’s cute you think so.

        • Truth says:

          if you think there wasn’t gentrification in the Mission in the 90s and the Lexington wasn’t a part of it, then you don’t understand what gentrification means.

        • soph says:

          The Mission was most definitely being gentrified in the 90′s and yes, lesbians were the first wave of gentrification in the Mission.

        • Caviar dreams says:

          Mission gentrification did indeed begin in the 90s. Slanted Door opened on Valencia in 1995. In 1996, a friend said, “They should call it 2 neighborhoods: The Mission and The Valencia.”

        • troll says:

          I think it’s cute that nobody, but NOBODY, who uses the word “gentrification” here, knows or cares what the word actually means. But carry on.

          “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’” — Lewis Carroll

  3. Matt says:

    Wow. Unwelcoming to lesbians? Things must **really** have changed.

    I remember (me, straight guy) going there with some lesbian friends about 15 years ago. I went in respectfully knowing that I should behave like a guest, and it was a great place to get a beer with friends where they felt comfortable and welcome. Sorry to hear it became so precious with its own reputation and crowd.

  4. Clint says:

    What a weird and ultimately unsettling sentiment. Not so much the “I went to this bar and it was not a good scene for me”. That sort of statement is pretty mundane. I’ve been to lots of bars that weren’t my scene. I’ve also been to some bars that I thought initially weren’t my scene but eventually became my scene after I got comfortable with the regulars and they got comfortable with me. So yeah, I get feeling “meh” about a bar that’s closing when I haven’t felt like that bar was my cup of tea.

    The part that’s unsettling for me is the “yay this place is closing yayyyy!” bit. Whatever your feelings about what the Lex has “become” vs. what it “was” (in my experience 95% of the time people say stuff like that it’s more the speaker that’s changed than the subject), there’s no question that it is a venerated institution that stood out as the only dedicated bar for a certain subset of the queer population. It is now closing and we can all pretty well guarantee that when it reopens it won’t be a lesbian/trans*/queer bar. No matter how you feel about the Lex’s scene, I feel like it SHOULD give one pause to dance on its grave given its relative importance to the community.

    FWIW, I’m a straight dude and certainly can’t speak to many layers of this person’s statement, but it strikes me as pretty strange given the grieving that people who DID like the Lex are going through.

  5. Kira says:

    While I can’t say that I’m excited that the Lex is closing, I am not particularly surprised to hear it — this narrative pretty closely echoes my own experience trying to go to the Lex as a queer woman.

  6. Tina says:

    Hmmmm… The kind of person who chooses to spend the better part of a day “blogging” in celebration of the closing of San Francisco’s only lesbian bar has a hard time making friends. Ya think?

    There are many types of people in this world but the worst of them is the type who sits around blaming everyone else for their self loathing.

    If anyone, the author is probably personally responsible for making people uncomfortable and for making venues feel hostile.

    Also, this post reads like an ill-authored Yelp review that surpasses the character limit. Please tell me that someone wasn’t paid to complain to the internet about how their sour faced pouting in public has prevented them from having a rewarding social life.

  7. Barbara Leigh-Kaplan says:

    I’m afraid the writer has not felt welcome in a lot of places where many others feel right at home. “I dare you to make me happy with no openness or effort on my part” has probably never worked for her. The Lex is one of the friendliest, most welcoming bars I’ve ever been in. I’m very sad it’s closing.

  8. An old patron says:

    Do you feel that way in all bars you enter? The lex was just a bar with 4 walls and a roof and two shitty bathrooms… And I liked the divy feel. I’m sad to hear about the lex closing. I used to frequent the joint once upon a time. I walked in there once and had no problems making friends and feeling comfortable or excepted! It’s a bar!! It is what u make of it… Maybe it depends on the person? I mean I can walk into anywhere and have a good time, bring friends or make friends… I don’t blame an establishment and it’s regulars I think that is a lame and insecure excuse …you might want to look into your own insecurities? Honestly, there are different types of people in the world, who have, sometimes share similar experiences… But I do not share the one listed above. When I moved to SF is 2004 (left 07 for NYC -try this city for acceptance – she’ll kick ur ass up and down the block) I had a very welcoming experience and I wouldn’t change those three years for the world. If you felt insecure there.. Then maybe you need to find some more confidence in yourself, and step up your game? It’s just a bar dude… With some lesbros in it… Make it what you want.

  9. Same Story Different Day says:

    Dead alcoholic? How pleasant. I no longer live in SF and cannot speak to the present, but people said the same thing about Maud’s and Ameilia’s and Francine’s in my day. And before me they probably said the same thing about Peg’s Place, the Bay Brick and even the freakin’ Black Cat.

    Time to stare your own reality of being a lesbian in San Francisco. Look up the Whiptail Lizard Lounge and see what was launched from that pre-Michelle Tea event. You create your own queer space where ever you may be .

  10. brewski jackie says:

    First of all …im brewski and i heart this place alot and its the best bar i love and yes it is my living room …all day every day ..u make ur owen self a out cast… man up and take more time making freinds, and less time bitching… the lex was a great and welcoming place for me ,,,for 11 years ..i have found myself made awesome freinds and girlfreinds… long live the lexington… 18 years of glory.. wake up and lick some pussy in the lex bath room…city by the vajj..

  11. LOL says:

    ^^^^^^ WOW. LOL! Intelligentsia rules again.

  12. LOL says:

    Will miss the Lex! Good times, for sure. Always felt welcome there, but definitely understand how some may have felt indifferent/not a part of whatever was there. Very clique-y but all good.

  13. Jess says:

    While I wasn’t a big patron of the Lex, it wasn’t because I never felt welcomed by the staff there. As someone who is told that I seem “very LA” (having just moved here from LA recently, I don’t take this as a insult) on a routine basis, one would assume that i would have experienced some kind of shunning or lack of help from the bartenders at a hip queer establishment in the heart of the Mission… but that wasn’t my case at all. I was always greeted with a smile and helped in a timely manner.

    My point is… maybe when you go in with the attitude that people don’t like you… they vibe off of it…?

  14. Lezzie New to SF says:

    This article could not be more accurate. The bartenders were not welcoming to newbies, only catered to the regulars. They gave off pretentious vibes and only served the people they liked right away.

  15. WaitingForMyDrink says:

    Sad to see the Lex go but it was poorly managed. There is a basement downstairs twice the size of the first floor that can’t be used due to gross (no pun intended) negligence of a sewage issue. Also having staff that chat up their groupie friends for several minutes before acknowledging you at the bar -or- make 2 drinks and run off somewhere to the back and return empty handed (why did you disappear for 5 minutes?) – OR – have trouble counting how much your drinks should be and admittedly make a pie in the sky total that is far less than what should be charged will not reap a profit. It’s a dive lesbian bar, suitable for folks looking for that type of hangout, I don’t think they needed to glam up the place for the urban outfitter lesbians moving to The City however basic janitorial duty would do wonders. Honestly the Lex was an old standby, that girl you visited when you wanted to get laid but with minimal effort or sense of attraction – never your first, second or third choice but always an option. Sorry Lex, sad to see you go but you dug yor own grave thanks to the people you hired.

  16. BGS says:

    I completely understand the love-hate relationship many folks have with this bar. I went to the Lex regularly (i.e., almost every day) from around 2007-2011— weeknights, happy hours, birthdays, going away parties, christmases, thanksgivings, new years, pre-dancing, post-breakups, the L word, election nights…you name it. Hell, I even got mono at the Lex. I met some of my very dearest friends here, and have the Lex to thank for a very large portion of who I today call my family. Probably half the people I invited to my wedding I wouldn’t have had relationships with had it not been for the Lex. I will always be grateful for what it has been for me personally and for my community. That being said, I can’t help but agree that gentrification is/was only a portion of what led to the Lex’s demise. I stopped frequenting the Lex for a number of reasons, but the one that bothers me the most was the attitude I got sick of dealing with from some (though most certainly not all) of the bartenders. Really, it only took one or two people to really make my trip(s) to the Lex less enjoyable. Only one or two of them who were rude, self important, arrogant, and who clearly gave two shits about hospitality, customer service, and broader notions of community. I am trying my very hardest not to turn this into the ranty Yelp review that I never ended up writing, but I have to agree with others that there were some serious issues with staff that always made me think that fostering community and maintaining a “safe” space was no longer a priority for this place. I just wish that there could have been a bit more thoughtfulness about who was hired, kept on as staff, and motivations behind those who we, the community, depended on to keep this place somewhere we actually wanted to continue patronizing. Maybe I just grew up. Maybe I’m just bitter about the couple of dicks who always treated me like I was competition instead of a customer and/or family. At the very least, I hope that we can learn something here–whether it be about capitalism, displacement, ego, community, or something else. I am still heartbroken and in mourning for this truly devastating loss, but I appreciate the sentiment of hope for something new and better in the future.