SF Health Officials Revised 1980s Regulations For Bathhouses

(image via Depositphotos)

After nearly 4 decades, gay bathhouses are now able to apply for permits to open in San Francisco.

In the mid-1980s, the city’s health department put in place tight regulations in order to try and curb the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.


At the time, the restrictions prohibited private locked rooms and required employees monitoring any possibly ‘dangerous’ behaviors.

Basically, those rules amounted to a ban on bathhouses in the city.

Currently, there’s one bathhouse operating in the area – Steamworks in Berkeley. That venue is currently closed due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions.

There is one private sex club, Eros, located in the Castro district, which has operated along the 1980s era rules.


According to the Bay Area Reporter, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman has been working for a year to overturn the restrictions. He found out last week the city’s health officials had updated the regulations for adult sex venues.

“It is symbolically significant right now,” Mandelman told the Reporter. “Whether it is significant on the ground depends on if entrepreneurs with the vision and financial capacities and the savvy to open can and operate one of these.”

(image via Depositphotos)

Mandelman sent a copy of the revised rules in advance of them being published.


Titled, “Minimum Standards for Operation of Sex Clubs, Commercial Sex Venues and Parties,” the 3-page document lists sexual activities that could open the door to exposure to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Those activities, including anal and vaginal intercourse without a condom and fisting without a latex glove, must be posted at entrances of the venues in English, Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog.

Patrons, 18 years or older, will also be required to sign in writing they understand the posted regulations. Additionally, there can be no consumption of alcohol nor any sex-for-pay on the premises.

The venues must also provide hot and cold running water, soap, towels, plus free lube and condoms.


No word on if/when a business owner will apply for a permit especially in the middle of the COVID-19 health threat.

Also, it remains to be seen how much of a market there may be for such businesses. Back in the day, gay bathhouses were popular for men looking for other like-minded men for sex.

But with dating apps like Grindr and Scruff, we’ll have to see how popular a new bathhouse might be today when you can basically ‘order in’ for free.

Mandelman, though, is hopeful a new bathhouse operator will step up. He told the Reporter, “It is a good development and sets the stage for bathhouses to be part of our economic recovery.”

(source: Bay Area Reporter)

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