The Esta Noche sign. Photo by Uptown Almanac

In this edition of our Listen Local podcast, Andra Cernavskis and Rigoberto Hernandez talk about why people are so sad to see the only Latino gay bar in the city — Esta Noche — close; and what the crowd is like at Dear Mom, a bar at the other end of 16th Street, towards Potrero Hill.

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Andra Cernavskis is a student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She is Canadian by birth but grew up in New Jersey and then San Francisco's Miraloma neighborhood. She has also spent time in Toronto, Buffalo, and Montreal. The Mission is one of her favorite neighborhoods, and she is thrilled to be back reporting in San Francisco.

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. On a similar note, Adobe Books is having financial trouble again. Everyone loves their story, but no one buys anything.

  2. it’s target audience was built out of a necessity for the queer latino community of the mission to create a safe-space for itself. a space where queer (and sometimes undocumented) folks could socially engage. it was also a space for MSM (men who have sex with men) to have a community without identifying as gay (for various reasons). at it’s end, it became a touristy concept for those folks new to the neighborhood who simply saw it as “that mexican gay bar” but it has a substantial meaning to men (of all ages) who can’t come out as gay because of their families, religion, social and political views and even their own self-loathing and lack of understanding. i haven’t seen anyone talk about this “angle” yet.

    1. Jeremy, so while there is now less demand from Hispanic gays, it seems unlikely that there are fewer of them.

      And more likely that it is now just easier to be gay without any stigma than it used to be, and so such clandestine locations for furtive encounters are needed less.

      Moreover the internet allows people of various persuasions to more easily meet each other, again obviating the need for such a location.

      So perhaps the closing of Esta Noche is a good thing, symbolizing advances in civil rights and acceptance of non-standard sexual proclivities. In much the same way as speakeasies closed when prohibition was repealed.

      It was a closet and now people are out of it. Gay is now mainstream – just look at the Castro.

      1. John, I love your optimistic response. However, for the migrant working latino (and possibly undocumented too), the civil “freedoms” we are now starting to enjoy through mainstreaming are simply not beneficial to them. They are a part of a traditionally cultural community and do not really have a voice because they are not out. We are talking fathers, husband and sons who don’t identify as gay and are keeping this from their family. They are working 12 hour days for less than minimum wage under the table to support their families. They use whatever little they have left to engage in social activities (because as humans you have a right to enjoy some fruits of your labors) with other men like themselves (hence the creation of this DL community) but without any outside voice to empower them to speak on behalf of said community. The very nature of their undocumented/in-the-closet status keeps them imprisoned in a “keep my head down/don’t make waves” mentality; they don’t seek visibility and because of this have now become displaced. While it is considerably easier to be “out” in this age, they are also still bogged down by devout religious and social stigmas specific to the latino community. It’s less about gentrification-blaming on this issue, and more about understanding why these safe-spaces are important. Let’s not forget, many of these men are uneducated and MSM’s tend to have riskier sex behaviors. At the very least, Esta Noche at offered men engaging these sex behaviors some sort of safe-sex education by having literature and condoms accessible. Most gay clubs have these, sure, but these undocumented men don’t go to other gay bars because this community is specific to them and it’s there at Esta Noche… or was.

        1. You’re both right: Esta Noche WAS a closet, and there is less of a need in general in the LGBTQ community for closets these days, especially in San Francisco. But Jeremy makes some really important points: While mainstream, predominantly white, American-born men might have an easier time coming out today than 10 or 20 years ago, it still isn’t that easy for guys not born in the US, from heavily religious (in this case, Catholic) communities where homosexuality is still seen as a huge taboo, something that could get a person shunned by their families or come to physical harm from those in their community. I have friends in this community who cannot come out, who have tried a little bit here and there, but were met with so much negative resistance that they simply couldn’t continue forward in their quest to be their authentic selves when the price, losing their families and their communities, is simply too high.

          It’s a rough place to be in. Esta Noche definitely served a need. But I’m guessing that nowadays, the closeted community goes somewhere else. Technology has changed how people connect with other people who are in the closet, for better or worse. It would be impossible for someone to stay in the closet these days while going in and out of a place like Esta Noche; One digital pic send via phone from a nosy neighbor, and the cat would be out of the bag.

          I never went to Esta Noche, but I will miss it from the Mission landscape. Still, I have hopes that there will be new LGBTQ venues that will open in time. In the meantime, who’s up for Trannyshack tonight @ DNA?!! It’s Stevie Nicks Tribute Night…how could THAT be anything less than fabulous?!!

          1. Esta Noche was a Latino drag performance space that catered to performers, their friends and admirers. I don’t think that there was anything closeted about it, just ways of expressing queerness that might be different than yours

            Homophobia takes on a different, less unhealthy, form in Mexico and Central American Catholic culture than it does in US protestant culture.

            Esta Noche was not my trip, but I was glad that it was there for so long for that community.

          2. I give Jeremy respect for making his points without card-playing or descending into identity politics.

            He paints a sympathetic picture of people who simultaneously suffer from several disadvantages (illegal, gay, non English speaking) without blaming any other party for that situation.

            The other liberals here could learn from Jermey e.g landline, nutrisystem, B2TB, Russo, 2Beers and m9arcos.

          3. I’m a liberal now? But you repeatedly call me a communist.

            Do you think they’re the same thing? Do you even know what a liberal is? (hint: liberals invented capitalism and democracy, while conservatives supported mercantilism and aristocracy)).

            Once again, you prove to be a liar, and an ignorant one at that.

  3. The point was made perfectly. Everyone likes the fact that Esta Noche is there but nobody goes there except for a one-off like trying to shock an out-of-towner.

    BTW, given that Andra is from Canada, where does her valley girl diction and syntax come from? She might want to work on that if she covets a career in audio journalism.

    1. What do you mean no one went there? Lot’s of people went there. Just because you didn’t go doesn’t mean the place didn’t exist.

        1. Businesses don’t end because they are too popular. I’ve been there about 10 times over the past 10 years or so. It used to be more crowded, but the last time I went there, it was a sad scene. We showed up with 10 of us on a friday night and we were half the crowd.

    2. Esta Noche just isn’t popular anymore, and that’s why it’s closing. Its a landmark, so maybe the new owners can preserve part of the facade or something, but it’s time for a new bar to take over the space.

      1. Yeah, it’s a theme bar and they go in and out of fashion. Local bars that appeal to all of a community tend to have more lasting power.

        Also a problem at a place like Esta Noche is that it may be full but that doesn’t help if the folks there are spending a lot. A bunch of tourists gawking at the show and nursing one Bud isn’t going to work out well.

          1. Orddu, any bar that has a specific angle or target audience can reasonably be termed a theme bar.

            The theme here was drag.

          2. It’s best not to discuss anything with John. He is the king of the internet contrarians.

            It’s a hopeless task.