Two months from today The Gold Dust Lounge, a Union Square watering hole once frequented by celebrities including Steve McQueen and Janis Joplin, will likely be forced to shut its doors.
The establishment was presented with an eviction notice that will force it to vacate by March 10, but a grassroots movement to save the landmark bar has been growing since news of the eviction broke this week.
A Facebook page and Twitter account, among other efforts, have sprung up in recent days to garner support to save the bar, which has been owned and operated by Jim and Tasio Bovis since 1966.
The “Save The Gold Dust Lounge” Facebook page gained hundreds of “likes” today, with more than 1,450 people pledging their support as of this afternoon.
Lee Houskeeper, a publicist for the bar and for Lefty O’Doul’s, which is also owned by the Bovis family, said supporters are organizing fundraising events, including a pub crawl.
As of this afternoon, plans for that event had yet to be released.
Christopher Caen, whose father, San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, was a regular at the bar, said he and others are working to save the bar.
“A bunch of us are actually getting together there on Friday to try to strategize over what we can do,” he said today.
“If we can save the Tonga Room we can save the Gold Dust,” Caen said, referring to the once-threatened tiki bar at the Fairmont Hotel.
The building’s landlord, Jon Handlery, whose family has owned the property since the 1950s and has leased the space to The Gold Dust Lounge for its entire operation, says that he has been open with the Bovises about his search for a tenant for the larger retail space since the last retailer, Casual Corner, moved out in 2006.
“When we were looking at different people who were expressing interest in the space over the past six years, one of the issues that came up was the need to have the additional retail space,” Handlery said, referred to the space housing the bar, which he said was partitioned from the larger retail space in 1965.
According to Handlery, the incoming tenant wants the entire first floor and basement, which would encompass the bar and the art gallery. He would not disclose the name of the incoming tenant, he said, because the lease has yet to be signed.
The Bovis family said Tuesday that the tenant was the retailer The Limited, but a spokeswoman for The Limited said today the company has no plans to open a store in San Francisco.
A clause in the bar’s lease allows for the building owners to terminate the lease with 90 days’ notice, and Handlery said that he has made sure the Bovises were aware of the clause when they resigned their lease every three years.
The lease came up for renewal in December, which is when Handlery said he told the Bovises that there was a strong chance a new tenant would want the space.
“I felt obligated to make sure that as soon as it looked like there would be a viable tenant to immediately let him know,” Handlery said. “We just thought it was the right thing to do.”
Patricia Decker, Bay City News