If you hadn’t heard the news already, it’s true. The empress dowager of 16th Street may soon be exiled from her palace if enough money isn’t raised to pay off overdue city taxes. In a nutshell, city licensing fees for businesses were recently changed by the Board of Supervisors last year. Although the intention was to make the process easier, glitches in implementation and slow service have led to a few businesses finding themselves in a bind of overdue payments, no grace period and little recourse- Esta Noche being one of them.
Now for those of you who are familiar with Esta Noche, you may find yourselves scratching your heads thinking, “Wait isn’t this the same place with huge covers and over-priced brew?” And you would be right. Although they have cheap ass specials during the day and evening just like any other bar, if you’ve cruised on through at show time, you have more than likely stood wavering on the sidewalk examining your billfold in disbelief at the end of the night.
To be fair though, it hasn’t always been like this. Back when I first entered that magic glitter pit in 2000, the covers weren’t as bad and the drink prices were about the same as anywhere else. The neighbourhood’s been changing for sometime now though and the crowds that once packed the joint aren’t around as much anymore. Like a lot of old bars, when things get tight, they go into panic mode and the prices go up just to break even. Plus, they are putting on a show after all. And if you are being truly honest with yourself, you more than likely lost at least half of that change to one of the glamazons who cast you under her spell.
And they are the ones that we really have to think about here: the regulars- both performers and patrons alike. Putting aside the crumbling Victorian decadence, disco balls, frenetic lighting scheme and Demetrie Kabbaz’ glorious portrait of Joe Dallesandro, we can’t lose this one because beyond being a divey gin mill, Esta Noche is sort of an unofficial embassy for many, but especially translatinas and monolingual queers alike. True, San Francisco is a great town and perceived safe harbour for queers all over, but that doesn’t mean that transphobic violence isn’t still ongoing or that when you are new in town and don’t speak the language, Castro Street isn’t intimidating or even xenophobic. Tired she may be, but Esta Noche is still a tough old ruca to be reckoned with, who many need for support.
So, if you find yourself on the corner of 16th and Valencia esta noche and got some dollar bills burning a hole in your chones, simply pass under the fabled yellow marquee, order yourself a piña colada and let the heady wave of pancake make-up, Aqua Net and sanitizer wash over you as a dozen multi-coloured lights twinkle above. Esta noche, and, hopefully, many more noches to come.
Save Esta Noche! Fundraiser
Featuring Little Lulu, Persia, Reina de Aztlan, Heklina, Anna Conda, Monistat, Grace Towers, DJs Carnita, Brown Amy, Sergio Fedasz and a Cast of Thousands More
9:00 p.m.- 2:00 a.m.
$10- $20 Sliding Scale
3079 16th Street (@ Rondel)