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The Weeknighter: Twin Peaks Tavern

Twin Peaks Tavern

photo from All City SF

Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That's why each week Stuart Schuffman will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, giving you the lowdown on how and where to do your weeknight right. From the most creative cocktails to the best happy hours, Stuart's taking you along on his weeknight adventures into the heart of the City's nightlife. So, who wants a drink?

What an incredible day to be a San Franciscan! I woke up this morning to the news that marriage equality is finally upon us. The people I love; my family members, my friends, my neighbors, can finally marry the people they love. I woke up to an America that finally sees something that we, as San Franciscans, have known for decades: Love is love. I’m using every bit of my self control (which really isn’t much) to resist the urge to run over to the Castro and dance in the streets. Today is the only day ever where you can call out of work “gay,” and your boss will totally let it slide.  

Today’s victories are obviously reliant on yesterday’s struggles. The Castro didn’t just become the “The Castro” overnight. In 2013, it’s hard to imagine the intersection of Market and Castro as a place that wasn’t always full of same-sex couples holding hands, strolling with their children, or walking their French bulldogs. If, 40 years ago, you told a passerby there was discussion of putting a gay male strip club in the Bank of America Building, he would’ve cocked his head to the side like the aforementioned French bulldog, trying to figure out what the fuck you were talking about. To get where we are now took perseverance, tenacity, and more than anything else, bravery. And the Twin Peaks Tavern is an amazing emblem of that.

While it was first opened in 1935 as a decidedly non-gay bar, two lesbians named Mary Ellen Cunha and Peggy Forster bought the Twin Peaks Tavern and reopened it in 1972 as its current incarnation. What makes Twin Peaks Tavern so important is that it was essentially the first gay bar in the nation to come out of the closet. Up until then, gay bars were seedy, underground places, often run by the mob, where patrons were in constant fear of getting raided. What Cunha and Forster did was feature giant windows, uncovered and unblackened out, that allowed patrons to look out at the world passing by almost as much as it let the world look in. It gave the community a dignified place to drink. This wasn’t a pick-up spot with a backroom, it was a place out in the open that said we are here, even if there were rules about not touching each other in the early years.

Today the Twin Peaks Tavern is affectionately nicknamed “The Glass Coffin” because of all the older fellas who hang out there, and in a way, this means it’s still kind of a bar that says “we are here.” Mainstream gay culture (whoa, can we finally say that this exists?) so famously celebrates youth and beauty, that older gay men can sometimes get pushed to the side. The visibility and conviviality of Twin Peaks Tavern not only says, “we are here, you dumb schmucks, and we fought so that you could be too” it also says, “and by the way, come in for a drink.” Many a fresh-faced youngster, new to The City, has gotten their first San Francisco drink bought for them at the Glass Coffin, just after arriving at the Castro Street Muni station. 

I’m not gay, but so many of the people that I love and are important to me are. If you’re in San Francisco and you’re reading this, chances are, this applies to you too. Even if you’re not in San Francisco and you’re reading this, it probably still applies to you. SF Pride starts early this year, and by early I mean right now. So, during this next week of festivities, stop into the Twin Peaks for a drink, and make sure to give out a lot of hugs while you’re there. Without those people doing what they did, we wouldn’t be celebrating like we are. Plus, maybe someone will buy you a drink. 

Happy Pride, San Francisco! Happy Pride indeed!