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Monday, April 18, 2011

Eagle Tavern: Can SFPD Save It?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 12:57 PM

click to enlarge How do you define "impact"
  • How do you define "impact"

Last week, supervisors penned a letter to acting Chief Jeff Godown, pleading with the SFPD to "carefully scrutinize" any liquor license transfer that might put an end to the Eagle Tavern as we know it.

In the letter, supervisors argue that the Eagle  -- which is set to close at the end of the month -- has long been a fixture in the LGBT community, hosting events that have helped to raise millions of dollars for LGBT and HIV services. There's been talk that a new owner would drastically change the venue so that it would no longer operate as the Eagle Tavern.

But this letter does much more than put the supervisors on record as opposing such a sale. As we read it, it seems "closely scrutinize" is code for "please find a legal way to deny a liquor license transfer to anyone thinking about shutting down the Eagle."

Curious about this request, SF Weekly called Inspector Dave Falzon to ask: Can the cops deny a license based on the fact that the new owners might turn it into something other than a gay bar -- like, say, a sports bar?

In short, the answer is of course not.

"It's something we are sensitive to, but we look at the totality of issues," Falzon says. "We cannot make a determination that a bar should or shouldn't be gay."

However, Falzon's job is to decide whether any changes to the venue would have a "negative effect" on the community. So then the real question is how will they define negative effects. According to Supervisor Scott Wiener, the fact that the Eagle Tavern might not be a gay bar anymore is a negative effect -- a significant one. 

But Falzon says the SFPD would look at the obvious effects a new venue might have on the community -- will the new establishment create blight; will there be noise issues; could it require more police resources? These are all good enough reasons to deny the license transfer, he says.

"So if the new buyer came in with significant change of use like a sports bar, that would draw thousands of people -- that could be grounds for us to say, 'That's a significant impact,'" Falzon says.

"And then some might infer that we are just accommodating the supervisors who want to keep it as a gay bar," he adds. "But it's not about politics or police, it's about private commerce."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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