Meet Mother – San Francisco’s newest queer bar opens in the Mission District

Inside Mother, the ornate mulit-colored bar resembles a cinema marquee. A bouquet of queers mingle under a sign that says

Hey Mary, yes the rumors are true. San Francisco has a new gay bar.

On February 2, Mother opened in the former Bond Bar on 16th street where Esta Noche, the infamous LatinX gay bar, closed down in 2014. With Esta Noche went some of the last remaining signs of queer life in the Mission. In the 1980s and 1990s, Valencia was THE hotspot of alternative queer nightlife. Blondie’s was the best place to hear slam poetry, the Lexington pool tournaments were epic, and Club Chaos at the former Crystal Pistol was the epicenter of anarchic gender F*ck parties in the city.

Today, none of these spaces have lasted through the times. (Other than Blondie’s, which lost its queer identity.) When The Lex closed down in 2015, it served as a big blow to the queer womxn’s community. Depending on who you talk to El Rio, Jolene’s, Casement’s, and Wild Side West are the most femme-focused bars in the city, but that topic is hotly debated as the clientele in these joints is visibly mixed.

To learn more about this new bar, we sat down with local business owner and self-professed “big fat dyke” Malia Spanyol.

What kind of bar do you hope Mother to be and what clientele are you hoping to lure?

“We are a queer womxn and femme-centered bar. There are so many “labels” and I really hate using them, but how about Dykes, Lesbians, Femmes, Queers,  Enby, trans babes, jocks, queerdos, dirty queers, power lesbians, gothic babes, outcasts, cat moms, dog moms, zaddies, drag royalty, porn stars, weirdos, deviants, tech gays, actual dogs (accompanied by a human) – anyone and everyone in the spectrum that doesn’t feel like they have a space anywhere else. Non-femme queers are more than welcome! We hopefully don’t need to ‘lure’ anyone in. The word will get out and people will find us.”

A framed picture of breasts in a sexy lingerie bra against an orange wall in Mother's gender-neutral bathroom.

One of the biggest challenges is to let people know that the bar has changed, and it’s no longer a straight bar. Tell us more about the current door policy of letting people know at the door that the bar is now a queer space.

“It prevents awkward situations inside. We are only a week old so it’s important to let everyone know that there’s a shift in ownership and clientele.”

Are there events planned at Mother? Will there be punk rock shows, DJ nights, drag? Lady’s Arm Wrestling?

“I own Thee Parkside so that’s the live music side of my life. Mother will have special DJ nights, maybe trivia, bingo, or karaoke, and community events like movie screenings, birthday parties, and group meet-ups. Mother doesn’t have a stage or lighting so things are limited. But if you know any ladies, arm wrestling is every July 4th”

Right now there isn’t a sign-up on 16th street. Is that intentional?

“Yes! Signage! We will have a light-up one AND one painted on the front still needs to happen. I basically got the bar open in 3 weeks so not everything is finished. The disco ball and LED sign aren’t up either. And we’ll have a mural on the inside. And a rotating small sign/mural on the Rondel alley side too!”

The busy 16th street outside of Mother bar.
Outside Mother. Its neon sign is yet to be hung.

Once inside Mother, you’ll find a brightly colored bar resembling a marquee serving up signature cocktails such as Esta Madre which gives a nod to the former queer establishment that once housed the building. Sparkling wine, hard kombucha on tap, and a healthy dose of non-alcoholic beverages grace the rotating menu. This is a queer haven from the madness of the Mission. Vintage projections of the 90s San Francisco Pride parade complete with Dykes on Bikes, and a projection reading “Welcum to our Queer future” illuminate the dimly lit watering hole.

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