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Storied: San Francisco

Jun 25, 2024

In Part 2, we dive into the story of how The Stud Collective pulled out the seemingly impossible—they found a new home in South of Market.


After a quick history of the space at 1123 Folsom (a leather bar in the Seventies called The Stables, Julie's Supper Club, a sports bar, a restaurant called Radius, and a vegetarian restaurant called Wellspring Commune that was a front for a cult called The Tribal Thumb, who were affiliated with the Symbionese Liberation Army ... and that space is rumored to have been one of the places that the SLA kept Patty Hearst—oh, San Francisco), Rachel guides us on a tour of the original location of The Stud, which was opened by Alexis Muir (a trans woman) in 1966.


Muir ran the OG Stud, also on Folsom west of the current location, for several years. Originally, it was a kinky/leather/cowboy/Western bar. It was the same year, just months before, that the Compton's Cafeteria Riots took place. Just a few years after it opened, The Stud shifted themes to more of a queer hippie bar. But one thing that helped it stand out from the get-go was its inclusivity.


The Stud remained in that original spot on Folsom until 1987. After Muir, a group of Milwaukee hippies who were also affiliated with Hamburger Mary's took over ownership. After this group, toward the end of the Seventies, another group took over. In 1987, following a dispute with the landlord, The Stud had to move. They found a spot on Harrison at Ninth that had previously been a nightclub.


We fast-forward a bit to revisit Marke, Rachel, and Honey's introductions to The Stud, which all took place at the Harrison location. Keeping with that spirit of inclusivity that had been a hallmark of the place since its opening, they all feel that it was the one place at the time where any segment of the queer population could feel at home.


In 2016, over Fourth of July weekend, The Stud's then-owner, Michael McElheney (who'd owned the place since the late-Nineties), announced that he was selling the business. The building it was in had been sold, the new landlords tripled the rent, and McElheney was ready to retire. But, as mentioned in Part 1, Nate Albee already had a plan in place.


Within the first week of McElheney's announcement, the fledgling collective presented the plan and it was accepted immediately. The group was already around 20 members strong. Honey and Rachel talk about other SF collectives and worker-owned businesses that they turned to for guidance and inspiration—Rainbow Grocery, Arizmendi, and the now-closed Lusty Lady. Marke says that, from its origin, the collective also wanted to serve as a beacon for how to do this elsewhere in the queer nightlife space.


On New Year's Eve 2016, The Stud Collective threw its Grand Opening party. The place never shut down between the previous owner and the collective taking over, but it felt right to celebrate the takeover.


Then, a little more than three years later, COVID hit. The rent was already exorbitant and they had decided to try to find another place. Once it became obvious that the shutdown was going to last longer than we all thought, they got out of the lease at the spot on Harrison, and even threw a funeral online. It wasn't an easy decision, but it turned out to be a unanimous one for the collective.


The Grand Opening Night at the new location took place this year on April 20 (haha?) and was themed "Stud Timeline." The first hour, which began at 6 p.m., was Sixties, the second hour was the Seventies, and so on. The Cockettes were there. Queer elders showed up. There were also first-timers.


It was a big deal, and the night was emotional for them all.


I asked them to plug events at The Stud during Pride, and Rachel obliged on behalf of the group:

  • Friday, June 28, "Forever" with (co-op member) Vivian Forevermore
  • Saturday, June 29, "Les Femmes," a celebration of dolls, twinks, and bimbos
  • Sunday, June 30, a "marathon party" with a drag show hosted by Princess Poppy


We end Part 2 with Marke, Honey, and Rachel responding to this season's theme on the podcast: We're all in it.


We recorded this episode at The Stud in South of Market in June 2024.


Photography by Jeff Hunt