From Issue 2.3 - December 1995/January 1996

Daddy's Opens, Despite homophobic Bureaucrats

By Caxton West

Over seven months after changing hands, Daddy's on Castro Street is finally open. Friday, November 3 saw the place packed from the time the doors opened at 5 p.m. until closing nine hours later. Mostly men, some women, lots of leather, and a very friendly atmosphere.

All this belied the real story behind the opening of bar. Despite being a queer mecca, San Francisco as a city seems stuck in a 1960s mentality when there was a law on the books prohibiting the operation of a "resort for perverts." This was the law used to raid gay bars, arrest owners and patrons, suspend licenses, revoke permits, and generally fuck with the civil liberties of a despised minority.

According to owner Philip Turner, SF Leather Daddy XI, the saga began on March 22, 1995, when he predicted a shut-down of three weeks for repairs and remodeling. Once repairs were underway, however, it was discovered that the floor under the lower bar was rotted and needed the kind of extensive replacement that threw Turner and his silent partner into a whole other realm of dealings with the city bureaucracy. Turner related the chronology of homophobia in an office cluttered with notes, memos, an overturned bottle of Mylanta tablets, and calendars. His record-keeping, however, is exquisite, amply documenting the saga.

Replacing the floor necessitated an architect, a structural engineer, a soil engineer, a general contractor, and many subcontractors (electricity, plumbing, etc.). Blueprints had to be drawn up, reviewed, and revised. Chasing down the first of the permits at the Permit Bureau (1660 Mission) consumed all of April and May and up until June 7th. The paper had to make its way from desk to desk to desk, and the idea of routing it around staff vacations or absences (of which Turner noted there were many) seemed beyond the capacity of city officials.

While such a tremendous run-around may be the typical experience of anyone trying to open a business in this micro-managed town, the process seemed unusually encumbered. Turner claims what he wanted was a fair shake -- not a special deal, just a fair shake. On June 12, Turner began to try for the second permit required, gaining some ground when on July 24 it was accepted for routing throughout the various city departments. All this meant was that they would start the process of making the decision. Every time Turner asked for the specifics of what he needed to do, he was given manuals to go over that confused his $120/hour architect.

On July 26, Turner called Richard Torres, a building inspector who claimed to have signed the permit and routed it onward, giving Turner the name of the next person who would handle it. This person, according to Turner, claimed never to have seen the permit, and since Torres was on vacation, nothing could be done. Apparently desk space is inviolate. Upon his return, Torres claimed never to have seen the permit, much less signed it and routed it onward. Only when Turner "went berserk on him" did Torres manage to find the signed and dated permit.

Next, the permit lodged for two weeks at the "Plan Checker" without so much as a glance. At this point, an angry and frustrated Turner started calling the politicians, including Frank Jordan's office, who referred him to Robert Oakes, the liaison to the gay community, who in turn referred him to his assistant, Jeff Patterson, whom Turner has yet to meet. Turner also spoke to Willie Brown, who attended the auction at the Daddy's Boy contest, and Betsy Codding from Carole Migden's office.

Through pressure from such offices, a meeting was set up on September 8 with Plan Checker Charles Ng, his supervisor, Turner and his partner, and the architect. Patterson canceled about 90 minutes before the meeting, although Turner insisted that Patterson deserved some credit for moving the process forward. Of the seven "issues" Ng had regarding the plan, five were already addressed in the current outline. Ng also claimed that he was not required to meet with Turner or to explain his objections. The municipal code printed on the back of the form Ng sent to Turner stated exactly the opposite. What with going through Ng's list, going over the plans, and making additions, the meeting to get the permit signed took a mere 12 minutes. The permit was signed by the rest of those involved by September 20. Hmmmm... Turner speculated that the politicians might not have been so forthcoming if it were not an election year.

Of course, it wasn't over yet. Building inspectors came around, and were homophobic in their actions, their attitude and their comments, according to Turner. Especially hateful was plumbing inspector Daniel Shea, who, according to Turner tried to verbally enforce requirements that were not within his jurisdiction, without writing any of it down. A phone call to Migden led Shea to return with a signed form and excuses of "miscommunication."

Daddy's opened on November 3, seven months and seven days after being purchased. In the first week of operation, three building inspectors were dispatched on anonymous complaints. None of the complaints were validated by the inspectors.

Turner speculated that while homophobia played a large role in the torturous permit process, leather phobia had to be a part of it too. Turner put on a shirt for the meeting with Ng, but wore his title vest because he was unwilling to disguise himself to get by. The community has been entirely supportive, and Turner has received compliments about the colors of the decor and about how attentive and attractive his staff is.

Since permits came at the last minute, too late to publicize the actual opening, a grand opening event was held November 18. Festivities took place throughout the day, and included a blessing of the bar by original Empress Jose Sarria. The Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Marching Band, the Rah Rahs, and Danny Williams provided entertainment. Fundraisers are already scheduled for throughout the coming year sponsored by groups including the Golden Gate Guards, GDI, GLOBE, and the Constantines. Turner hopes to see many women there at the bar. "I don't see people by gender," he noted, "unless I'm interested in going to bed with them. Women are daddies, too." In a grand understatement, Turner concluded from his cluttered office, "It's been a struggle. But we're here."

© 1995, Cuir Underground

Last updated: 16 December 1995