Save the Hole

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I've always fondly called legendary rock 'n roll queer SoMa suds spot Hole in the Wall the "TGI Fridays of leather biker bars" because of its insane decor.

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Yet this tiny bar with the enormous AIDS remembrance candle was always my favorite spot in the city -- not least because I've been one of the lucky few 86'd from it (don't ask. I mean really don't ask.) But especially after a fire in its host building last year, it needed a change of venue, and the awesome-cute grizzly biker owners John and Joe bought a spot around the corner to relocate.

And of course the NIMBYs ("Not in my backyard" folks) are trying to block its move by complaining their little suburban-wannabe asses off about it. A gay bar? In SoMa? GASP!

What I have to say about that you can find in my comments posted on our article about what's happening. Suffice it to say, John and Joe have been incredibly beneficial friends to the gay community through their fundraising efforts at the Eagle and Hole, and are more a part of what makes SoMa SoMa than any complainy nitwit.

But the NIMBYs just might win -- the future of the Hole looks grave. Here's how you can help, from a letter sent out by John and Joe:

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Dear Friends of SOMA Gay Culture,

Hole In The Wall Saloon has become famous since it opened some thirteen years ago. At the depth of the AIDS epidemic, when gay South of Market seemed to be dying, "The Hole" became a joyous retreat for our community with an accent on art, fun, and music. A thinking man's bar.

Anyway, the building where it lives now is rapidly falling apart. For years we've been looking for a more secure location, and in October of 2006 we bought a suitable property on Folsom Street.

Shortly thereafter, a man named Jim Meko handed us a letter. Allegedly, he had already delivered a copy to the seller's realtor before we bought the property. We'd never seen this letter. It stated that he and the neighborhood did not want another bar in the South of Market area (despite the fact that we had already been here for twelve and a half years). So we held a neighborhood meeting and presented our plans. We assured everyone that we would address all concerns with haste and sincerity. Still, Mr. Jim Meko countered that if he stood at the intersection of 8th and Folsom streets, he could hear loud music from inside Hole In The Wall on any given night. He stated that The Eagle Tavern, our second establishment (which has been a gay bar for more than twenty-five years now) was a terrible nuisance and that he was constantly annoyed by the commotion from its Sunday community benefits. He finally stood up and exclaimed the following to our new neighbors:

"Don't trust these guys! They're bad bar owners!"

This last accusation cut the deepest. We've tried hard over the years to be a positive force in our small corner of the world. We clean and police the streets in front of our establishments. We donate time, money, and energy to charities and clubs that we see making a difference. Most importantly, we respect our employees as human beings with rights. Since the beginning, we've provided them with health insurance, paid vacations, and a yearly retreat at The Russian River. Despite Mr. Jim Meko's characterization of it as a nuisance, The Eagle Tavern raises tens of thousands of dollars for charities and civic organizations each year. Finally, we can't count how many gay men have sworn they met their life partner at the Hole In The Wall Saloon and consider it a sacred place. We're proud of these things and believe ourselves to be far from "bad bar owners".

We were soon informed that a hearing was being insisted upon by a second neighbor at the urging of Mr. Jim Meko and that others had now been persuaded to oppose the bar's relocation project. We personally called this second neighbor. He had never been to Hole In The Wall. He had been to The Eagle Tavern once.

At this point, the future of the Hole In The Wall looks grim. The floor and foundation are in bad shape. The bar's days are numbered. We can't afford to purchase another building; and in any case something similar to all of this would be the certain outcome. South of Market, in the hands of the small-minded, has slowly turned petty and intolerant. Not only is Hole In The Wall certain to close if we can't re-locate, but the future of The Eagle is in doubt as well. Mr. Jim Meko's main complaints were directed against it, and he sits on the city's Entertainment Commission.

What we're asking for is your spiritual and verbal support. We need testimony from people who know the Hole In The Wall and The Eagle Tavern and consider them important. A short letter sent directly to

President Dwight Alexander
San Francisco Planning Department
1660 Mission St. 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

would be wonderful. Your presence and willingness to speak for a minute or two at our hearing on Thursday, May 10th beginning at 1:30 would be of immense help. It will be at City Hall, Room 400. In any event, the destiny of both the Hole In The Wall and The Eagle Tavern are up to their fans now... As is the future and spirit of all of South of Market.

Sincerely,
John Gardiner & Joseph Banks
Proprietors
Hole In The Wall Saloon & The Eagle Tavern
E-mail: info@holeinthewallsaloon.com

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