The Site of the SoMa Whole Foods Was Once a Leather Bar

A shot at The Tool Box from the 1964 photo spread in <em>Life</em>.
A shot at The Tool Box from the 1964 photo spread in Life. Photo: Life Magazine

Following on a recent map project of the Lost Gay Bars of San Francisco, OUT just did a roundup of the 12 Bars That Made San Francisco Gay, and we’re betting you have not heard of most of them. First (though probably not the very first of its kind), there was The Dash, a Barbary Coast bar opened in 1908 at 547 Pacific Street where cross-dressing waiters were known to do special favors for the customers for a dollar. The place ended up being closed six months later by the vice squad, but it’s an example of a storied place that was probably one of many lost to history. The first wave of modern gay bars began in 1962, with one, The Tool Box in SoMa (399 4th Street) being featured a couple years later in Life Magazine in a pioneering piece about “Homosexuality in America.” It was a “rough trade” leather bar that helped establish San Francisco’s national reputation as a hub of gay culture, and the site where it stood is now the SoMa Whole Foods at 4th and Harrison. In fact, the leather man mural featured in the Life photo spread was right about where the produce section is now. [OUT]