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Food & Drink

San Francisco bar returns to Castro after 3-year closure, draws packed house

Storied Castro LGBTQ+ bar Badlands reopened Wednesday after a three-year closure. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

For the first time in three years, rainbow lights bounced off spinning disco balls, tequila gushed from bottles and Britney Spears music videos played on wall-to-wall TVs at the Badlands bar in the Castro.

After shutting down in July 2020 after 45 years in business, the Castro gay bar and dance club opened its doors for the first time since Covid Wednesday night. Badlands will be open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.—except on Fridays and Sundays—when it will open from 2 p.m.

Many customers told The Standard it was nice to have another bar open in the neighborhood that has struggled with storefront vacancies.

Francisco Galvan and Oscar Cazares first came to Badlands when they were dating in 2015 and said they were glad the bar had finally reopened.

Francisco Galvan and Oscar Cazares said Badlands' reopening would enliven the neighborhood and provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ people. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“It brings a little vibrancy back. This is kind of a quiet street,” Galvan said. “Before, I would just have to play music and drink at home.”

“It’s like when Mother opened,” Cazares said. “We need more [queer] spaces.”

Carlos Gonzalez, who has lived in San Francisco since 1995, said the reopening will help activate the area.

Carlos Gonzalez said he is happy the storied Castro LGBTQ+ bar has finally reopened. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“It’s exciting that there are more bars in the neighborhood,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, it brings people back to the shops, restaurants, other bars.”

Badlands manager Greg King said he was optimistic for the bar’s future.

“It feels amazing to be open,” King said. “I can’t wait to see what happens.”

Badlands manager Greg King mixes drinks on the storied Castro LGBTQ+ bar reopening on Wednesday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

The head of the Castro Merchants Association, Terry Asten Bennett, agreed the bar’s reopening would enliven the neighborhood.

“We’re excited to see it open,” Bennett said. “Literally every open storefront is good for the Castro.”

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, a supervisor who represents the area, said after being closed for three years, he was skeptical the bar would ever reopen.

“I’m a little surprised and absolutely delighted,” Mandelman said. “The neighborhood is suffering from vacancies and getting that place up and running is good for the area.”

Badlands owners TJ Bruce and Les Natali did not respond to requests for comment.