It's a makeover that's long overdue, according to its owners. The days of the entire building packed with scaffolding and wires hanging everywhere are over. The Midnight Sun, the popular intimate Castro bar known for decades as the default TV and video-viewing gay bar, has its new face on...almost.
"It's taking longer than we anticipated," said Joshua J. Cook, manager and bartender at The Midnight Sun for the past year. When I and photographer Georg Lester visited, a few discreetly tucked cables hung at corners near some blank walls. But for the most part, the backlit decor and screens seem to be nearly completely installed.
Cook's been a tad busy, what with also supervising major renovations at the new venue Beaux (set of open in early October). The Market street home of the former Trigger and Detour is one of few new gay bars set to open, which is rather special, since several have recently closed. That the Midnight Sun has been such a regular venue for Castro locals and visitors is also notable.
"We've been working on this for a year," said Cook. "This is my anniversary with the company and we began work when I started."
The Midnight Sun is co-owned by Tim Eicher and Jeff Eubanks, who also own and manage the renovated Edge Bar, and Qbar with partner John Bellemore. Together, the collective have been responsible for a minor renaissance with gay bars.
It's nice to see these classic local bars getting a makeover. The construction at The Midnight Sun did close the bar for a few weeks. Yet despite the outdoor construction boards still covering what will become an open window, a few blank walls and exposed parts, the Sun is back in business.
"It's the first facelift in 40 years," said Cook, who also presents the weekly Booty Call on Wednesday nights with Juanita More at Qbar.
Although the Midnight Sun originally was located around the corner on Castro street, it remains a longtime favorite. According to Cook, the current venue "used to be an old plumbing warehouse, and had no windows." When it became a gay bar, the dark environs led to the name Midnight Sun.
Considered the first video bar in the country, with the advent of MTV and other entertainments, Cook said the staff chose videos over records through the 1990s, and a popular trend was born. People came out in crowds to watch episodes of TV shows popular with gay viewers.
But what he cited as the former "neglectful owners not living in San Francisco, they let the bar run itself. It kind of lost touch with the community."
"We envision this as a rebirth for all generations," Cook added. "And that meant opening the front end of the building."
The videos playlist has also enjoyed a makeover. "We've updated the content and stepped away from sitcoms," said Cook. "People used to want to leave the house to watch TV shows with friends. Now everyone watches on DVRs."
Instead, eye-catching gay-themed music videos, the wacky drag show Mahogany Mondays, request nights on Tuesdays, and video montages are part of the new style, along with a select collection of gogo talents.
"It took some work, but we're there," said Cook. "We have a nice crowd, even with the renovations."
But back to those gogo guys, if we may. Cook laughed as I marveled over his enviable job. "I employ all the best gogo guys," he said. "They are great. They got me where I am, and I also pay a lot of their rent. I keep them safe, and professional."
Cook's happy to market the bar as a place where hot men dance. "So much of the Castro has gotten away from sexy," he noted. "Our Fridays for Men is not even a name for the party, because that's simply what it is, a place for men to meet. "
For the lure of hip-swinging talent, Cook said, "I hired the San Francisco-style guys," which include a diverse array of men, from big and muscled to cute and flirty.
Stop by for the gogo talent in all sizes, the friendly staff, and special events at the new and improved Midnight Sun.