One month ago, the future looked rather dim for The Stud. The current owner of the iconic gay bar broke the news that his rent had been tripled after the building was sold, and he planned to retire. Many were concerned that The Stud would close its doors for good, after 50 continuous years of operation South of Market.
However, it didn't take more than a day for local performance artist and party host Mica Sigourney, a.k.a. VivvyAnne ForeverMore!, to announce that a coalition of "experienced drag queens, queer promoters, performers, businesspeople, and politicos" had already begun working to form a co-op that could purchase the bar, sign a new lease with the landlord and continue the Stud's legacy.
One month later, that group has grown, and while it isn't a done deal just yet, the Stud's future is looking much brighter.
The co-op's call for support last month received a "huge response"—not just from local artists, DJs and performers, but also from a slew of experienced business development professionals, Sigourney said.
The Stud Collective's list of "superstar" members now includes the likes of Paul Dillinger, vice president of innovation at Levi Strauss & Co.; Nathan Allbee, a former nightlife promoter and current political strategist who penned the legislation that created the city's new Legacy Business Registry program; and Marke Bieschke, publisher of the former San Francisco Bay Guardian and current publisher of the progressive news site 48Hills.
With the nightlife, social work, business and even development experience of its 15 members—and additional assistance from District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim's office and the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development—the collective is working to finalize a co-op model and business plan that can thrive in the city's current economic climate.
“I've made the choice to move forward with transferring ownership of the bar to The Stud Collective based on the diverse, multitalented, qualified group that they represent," said The Stud's current owner of 25 years, Michael McElhaney, in a press release issued today by the collective. "If these awesome folks can't make it work, no one can."
At this point, Sigourney said the collective is finalizing its business plan, and will then make moves to negotiate a new lease with the landlord. If all goes well, the co-op could take ownership of The Stud by mid-October, when the rent increase goes into effect.
Applying for the city's Legacy Business Registry program is still on the table, he also noted, but that can't happen until the collective secures a lease. In the meantime, spending money at The Stud is still the best way for the wider public to show its support, Sigourney said.
Sigourney said that he hopes that the landlord just wasn't previously aware of the Stud's value to the community, and that this process shows him that "it's really important to keep it."