Long before the Castro became the bastion of gay culture that it is today, the majority of the LGBT community was centered along Polk street, running north and south from the Pine Street crossing. Despite the powerful gay economic and political structure (which gave way to some of the most prominent community pillars like the Imperial Court and the Tavern Guild), the AIDS epidemic all but wiped out the heart of the community and ultimately shuttered the gay neighborhood for good.
The few holdouts and derivatives from that era took root in the Tenderloin just a few blocks away, most notably the Gangway, Cinch, Aunt Charlie’s, and the Deco Lounge. When the Deco Lounge closed down in 2012 it signaled to many the impending doom of the gay scene for the TL, the assumption being the growing acceptance of the LGBT community was leading to a world without the need of the specialty bar. I’m happy to report that not only does the world need a special place to pack the gays (please take a moment to thrust in a joke or two), but it needs to be an all inclusive environment more representative of the true shape of things to come.
As the Castro steadily shifts towards straight girls in tiaras, penis shaped everything, and vomit stained sashes, many gays are looking elsewhere to get their music and booze fix. The Tenderloin has seen a huge jump in the LGBT population in light of the recent rent boom and subsequent pricing increases. There has concurrently been a rise in the need for nightlife to accommodate the new flow of young gays taking root in the TL. The Basement at 222 Hyde has opened its doors to a weekly gay-centric party, Studio 222. Though it does not classify itself as a gay bar, it does vehemently advocate a mixed crowd where everyone can get down and dirty together. This particular club used to be the greenroom for the legendary Black Hawk Jazz Club, which hosted arguably the greatest jazz musicians of all time: Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk just to name a few.
The weekly party takes place every Wednesday night from 7:00pm until midnight with all profits from the door going to the Larkin Street Youth Services, an organization offering housing, education, employment, and health services to homeless and runaway LGBT youth. This particular organization was chosen as the benefactor to highlight the growing homeless young gay and trans population crowding the streets of the Castro.
In addition to a freshly installed Funktion-One sound system and a happy hour that lasts until 10pm, there will be a rotating lineup of popular gay and straight dj’s spinning various types of house music to kick start the beginning-of-the-end-of-the-week! Check out the Basement’s event calendar for the weekly dj lineup, there is currently no cover while the party gets off the ground, but donations are encouraged to help change the lives of homeless LGBT youth.
By Erik Withakay
Established in 1940 as the Three Deuces Club, 222 Hyde [now The Basement] is steeped in history with a long and storied musical past.
Located next door to the world famous Black Hawk Jazz Club on the corner of Turk & Hyde, 222 served as a sort of VIP hangout for jazz legends such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane.