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Storied: San Francisco

Jan 24, 2023

We start Part 2 talking, briefly, about the 2016 election. Then we move on to COVID and how the pandemic affected Thee Parkside. In a word, it was devastating, but Malia and her crew rose to the challenge. They had opened La Lucha coffee from the front window of the joint in 2015, and were able to keep that going.

Because of Parkside's kitchen, they were considered essential and so were able to be open when other bars weren't. But, as Malia points out, it was a "constant state of pivoting." It wasn't only the always-changing federal, state, and local ​regulations around COVID, but she and crew trying out different things until they got to what worked.

Even though they made it, COVID got Malia thinking about community. Her friend, photographer Chloe Sherman, had been posting photos of queer San Francisco through the years. The photography revealed for Malia what had been lost, not in the pandemic, but through gentrification over decades. This inspired her to start doing research on the history of lesbian bars in The City.

At this point, Malia dives into some of that history, including the 40-some-odd lesbian bars that existed in San Francisco between World War II and the 1990s. She touches on the bigotry and discrimination of the lesbian community over the decades and what it meant to overcome that and operate a business, even here in The City.

Seeing a void, Malia sought to re-establish a space in San Francisco for womxn and femme-centered queers. With a word in to her realtor, incredibly, the spot on 16th Street in the Mission that used to be Esta Noche was available. Signs? Signs.

Opened in 1979 by gay Latinx men who were tired of going to predominantly white bars in the Castro, Esta Noche thrived for 35 years until 2014, when a new liquor licensing fee was imposed and they were unable to raise enough money to cover it. Bond bar opened soon after and ran until its owner sold to Malia earlier this month. Everything is set for Mother to open its doors on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Malia speaks to the fears of doing what she's doing. Not one to seek the spotlight, she feels an intense pressure to get this right, to defy what seem like odds in these times. We applaud her efforts and look forward to seeing Mother thrive for many, many years.

Photography by Michelle Kilfeather and Jeff Hunt