The bar at 1225 Folsom Street has gone by many names over the decades — The Ramrod, My Place, Cip, Chaps II, Kok — but one constant has remained through most of that time: It’s been a dark and dirty cruise bar for gay men. A tipster pointed us yesterday to the fact that some new owners are moving in with a new name and concept, called Driftwood, which seems to signal a shift away from chain link and jock straps. The name conjures the reclaimed-wood aesthetic at nearby cocktail bar Bloodhound, not to mention the reclaimed wood aesthetic at a hundred or so other trendy spots around this and other U.S. cities, but we’ll reserve judgment for now.
We’ve reached out to new owners Shawn Magee (who also owns Amnesia in the Mission) and Christopher Milstead, but have not yet heard back about their plans. However Grub Street learned via one of the current bartenders that the staff was informed of the pending sale of the bar via email from current owner David Morgan in the last two days. We should note that the sale is not complete, and Kok Bar (link semi-NSFW) remains open, doing their Pants Off parties on Fridays, and everything else, for at least another month or two.
The recent blowup over the closure of The Eagle, and the subsequent battle to keep it a gay bar despite new lessees who were ready to move in, is not likely to be repeated here. As both My Place and Chaps and in its current state, the bar has some ardent fans, but not the community-wide love that The Eagle has for its large patio, so we’re not expecting to see protesters set on preserving this place.
But as gay studies scholar Tim Dean recently pointed out, this bar, as the Ramrod, was a leather bar back before the gay liberation movement began, since at least 1967, and only during its brief incarnation as Cip did it try to be anything else — namely a cocktail lounge with a water feature, for a brief period in 2005-06. It returned quickly to being My Place again in 2006, and then became Chaps II, with a new coat of black paint and the revival of its back room.
Sadly for some, leather bars across the country are closing as the hyper-masculine subculture has dwindled greatly since its heyday in the seventies, and the expected closing of Kok Bar follows this trend. The bar has styled itself as not all about leather in recent years, but has remained a “cruising” bar — albeit a sparsely populated one.
Gay bars outside the Castro have also become a dying breed in the last few years. (See Bold Italic’s new roundup for a smattering of those still in existence.) A bar known as Ginger’s Trois in the Financial District gave way to the reclaimed-wood covered Rickhouse just four years ago. The Eagle is hopefully still going to reopen, though there’s been no recent word on that. Deco Lounge in the Tenderloin recently closed. And Marlena’s in Hayes Valley is set to close next month.
We’ll update you with details on Driftwood as soon as they become available.