Gay Bathhouse Restrictions Are Lifted, But A Little Too Late? How Many Are Left?

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When is the best time to change a rule? Apparently San Francisco Supervisors think it’s when businesses this change will help are closed and some closed for good?

Blow Buddies web statement.

Blow Buddies, one of two of San Francisco’s adult gay sex clubs, announced that it would not reopen its South of Market location post COVID. It has been shut down since mid-March when city officials ordered non-essential businesses to cease their operations, and apparently adult sex clubs are non-essential.

With all of the sex dens closed and now news that there may just be one that could come back from the COVID closure, San Francisco supervisors voted to lift restrictions on gay bathhouse operations!  The Tuesday vote was just days after Blow Buddies’ wen announcement:

Sadly, Blow Buddies will not be reopening after the pandemic. We tried many ways to figure out a path to return and were unsuccessful. We appreciate the willingness of the LEATHER & LGBTQ cultural district and our landlord to explore options with us. It was a good run … August 8, 1988 to March 15, 2020. We are sad to see this chapter close. We thank our many members for their support over all those years. The club was created in response to one virus and done in by another.

Steamworks Baths in Berkeley will be the last bathhouse standing in the Bay Area. Steamworks has not mentioned anything about closure, but is actually keeping hopes high while informing interested parties via its website that they plan to reopen after the worst of the pandemic is over.


The Watergarden in San Jose suffered the same fate Blow Buddies did because of the pandemic closure. A message was posted to the website on Wednesday, July 15th and a letter was emailed to patrons.

“It is with deepest regret that we must announce our permanent closure due to the COVID19 pandemic. Due to the ongoing closures of businesses, and unknown dates for a possible return to normal, we are not able to reopen. Already being closed for months on end has resulted in grave financial losses. After being in business for over 43 years, it’s heartbreaking to make this announcement.”


Who is left?  Berkeley is a little ways to travel, so that leaves Eros in the Castro district as the last gay sex club in San Francisco. With a positive outlook, the sex club has on its site “Closed Until August with the possibility of an extension.”  It looks like that extension will be needed.



With the closures and with the outlook looking more like 2021 before anything substantial could open, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously voted to remove restrictions on the sex clubs.  The restrictions had been around since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s. We’re not sure how well enforced or practiced these rules were, but the ones that were removed made sure there were no private rooms with locked doors and to have monitors in the club.

The city’s public health department may be the ones to thank for sparking these changes in perspective.  The department hinted that with the advancement of HIV prevention and U=U (undetectable = untransmittable), there should be some changes made.  With that nudge, the Board of Supervisors was willing to allow private rooms and locked doors.

This is all fine and good that one group has been educated and desires to change the rules. But now the ordinance changing these rules will need to 

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman mentioned that the new rules will go into effect once these types of establishments are allowed to open back up after COVID, to allow them to function and be a part of the economic recovery. 


Many support the new rules or lack there of over the adult sex venues as now, adults will be able to have sex, privately, but also, it will give rise to opportunities to educate about safe sex, better sex, just sex talk in general.  

Not everyone agrees. Colin Gallagher, a gay resident of the city, sent the supervisors a letter objecting to the rule changes for sex venues. It also allows the sex den workers to work at keeping a clean and safe environment and not policing attendees. 

Opponents point to the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that there should not be a lessening of rules prohibiting interaction, should not be lessening restrictions where HIV may be transmitted, and should not be allowing for more secrecy where drug use could occur. 

What are your thoughts?

  • Did the Board of Supervisors change the rule to help the sex venues when COVID was no more, because HIV health has come a long way, or did they do it since the venues are an almost extinct breed?
  • Are looked and private rooms okay in adult sex venues? Should there be some openings to see if drug use or other abuse is going on? 

Source: Bay Area Reporter

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