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Storied: San Francisco

Jan 17, 2023

​San Francisco is about to get its first new LGBTQ bar in a long, long time, y'all.

In this episode, we'll meet Malia Spanyol. Currently, Malia owns Thee Parkside. She was born in Honolulu and went to ASU in Tempe, Arizona. But she hated it and came to San Francisco in 1989 just before the big earthquake that year.

Malia was already out and was here looking for her people. She worked, went to school at SF State, made friends, and explored the town on her motorcycle. It was a "great time to be gay in SF," the early 1990s.

She was always going to music shows, art shows, poetry readings, and parties, mostly in the Mission. "Valencia Street was dirty" then, Malia says. She worked in a dildo factory and lived in Hayes Valley. On her way to work, she and friends would drive down Valencia in a t-top, out and proud as fuck.

At her job, Malia learned bookkeeping and helped friends and small businesses do taxes. She seized an opportunity to become a business owner herself when she bought Pop's Bar with friends in 2003. Lil Tuffy, who some of you might know from this podcast and his show posters, came in and became the manager at the bar.

Malia ran Pop's for 10 years, from 2003 to 2013. In 2007, she found out about an opportunity at Thee Parkside, a spot with more to offer—food, a stage, an outside area. And so she capitalized. As Malia notes, the area around Thee Parkside was very different then—more blue collar.

She learned Muay Thai around 2007 and fell in love with the sport. Her coach asked her to open a new gym and she did.

Check back next week to hear all about Malia's newest adventure—opening Mother, the newest queer and femme-centered bar in The City.

We recorded this episode at Thee Parkside in Potrero Hill in November 2022.

Photography by Michelle Kilfeather