Brass Tacks, the former Marlena's, Gets Post-Gay on Hayes

Pete Kane
Brass Tacks has officially opened in the space that used to be Marlena's, for 23 years the go-to place for fancy opera gays, lovers of discount drag and, every December, fans of the world's largest collection of Santas. Hayes Valley must have been thirsting for it, cause it was packed on a Monday. Marlena herself (nee Garry McClain) gave it the OK, and you know she has powers from when she was Empress.

See also: Marlena's, San Francisco's Coolest Drag Bar, Sold
The Santas Are Back at Marlena's, and They Are Gloriously Creepy

As with Churchill -- itself a project by co-owner Anthony Healy-London -- or the recently opened Virgil's Sea Room, the vibe at Brass Tacks is basically "post-gay." But unlike Virgil's, Brass Tacks is pretty muted. A herringbone reclaimed oak floor, black anodized steel shelf counters, bronze sconces, gray vinyl wall coverings -- it's all very tasteful, but conservative, like a gay psychologist's office. (Or maybe the neutrals are anticipating all those Santas? Probably not).

Pete Kane
But the bar is walnut and stocked with hundreds of bottles and that's what people walk in for, right? Interesting, affordable beers are everywhere (like Stillwater Cellar Door Saison and Drake's Dry Stout on tap, Belgium's Bacchur Sour and Iceland's Einstock White Ale in bottles) and that is rather un-conservative. The cocktails reference quirky art films, from Roman Polanski's debut, Knife in the Water (an unusual mix of Manzanilla, Salers aperitif, Dolin Blanc and Peychauds) to the quite too utterly utter To Wong Fu [sic], made with Smith & Cross rum, brandy, Cocchi Americano, lemon and pamplemousse (i.e., pomelo).

Also, Brass Tacks is dog-friendly. Like, hundred-pound-mastiff-friendly. How refreshing is that? Big, big points there -- almost enough to counter the feeling that, to put it in the language of the SAT, Brass Tacks is to Marlena's like Doris Day is to Eartha Kitt.

Hayes Street's astonishing transformation has drawbacks. Crossing Gough still sucks. "Not-entirely-outrageous" drinks are the new baseline, and $200 fleeces chased all the heroin away. But you can drink something intriguing at Brass Tracks, look out the front window at the boutique wonderland and remember that once, there was a freeway out there, and drag queens, and maybe even a little danger.

Brass Tacks, 488A Hayes St.

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Wow, what an offensive and stupid article.  What the hell does "post-gay" mean?  While I admit the remodel is beautiful, it pretty much ends there.  Not a single staff person from Marlena's was retained.  Rumor has it none were even asked or given a chance to apply.  As for a seal of approval from Marlena herself?  Well, my guess is they could have opened a lemonade stand in there and she would have approved once that check cleared!  Once a neighborhood joint populated by fiercely loyal regulars, now a another spot like so many others.  I guess I will opt to visit my "gay psychologist's office" instead.  Likely, it will be a significantly cheaper outing and less devoid of character.

Raquel Santiago
Raquel Santiago

There was a huge emergency meeting yesterday with DSA after a board member got wind of this article as well as my comments about it so i was summoned to the closed door meeting and i dont mean nicely summoned either. The board got wind of what they deemed "hate comments" by Mr. Kane words including words "discount drag" and "post gay". DSA has a very large anti hate policy and the communities we associate with, and this did not set well with the board. Final decision on how to respond was tabled for one week but it wont be pretty. At least my comments on it got a round of thank yous. thank the goddesses.


Discount drag?  Are you kidding me?  You need to spend a little time researching your subject before writing an article like this.   There was nothing discount about the shows at Marlena's.   People came from around the country and waited - sometimes for hours - to get into the shows!  Especially the Hayes Valley Follies, which was San Francisco's longest running drag show.   

Just because the performers did not have aspirations to be one of the bitchy RuPaul Girls, (who do nothing for their community other than perpetuate stereotypes of Drag Queens being bitchy, catty, self absorbed, bitter queens) does not mean these shows were discount!    The Queens who performed at Marlena's raised millions of dollars over the years to support various charities in the City.  They even raised money for a girl in Kansas who needed a liver transplant to save her life.... and they raised enough to do it.   The fishy RuPaul girls do nothing of the sort.

Marlena's was an institution where people could come - not knowing anyone - and leave feeling like family.   I for one, have made life long friendships and consider Marlena, Galilea and the girls family.   They were never anything but supportive and loving!   They gave more of themselves than you, Peter Kane, ever will.   

You should be ashamed.  Marlena's (and the drag shows) were a legendary institution in San Francisco (and the nation), I remember queens from other states coming to SF just to experience and perform at Marlena's.   There is no place like it.   

Marlenas never turned her back on someone in need.   Whether it be the homeless person hanging out front of the bar or a random stranger who lacked the funds for a beer, she was there.    

Galilea and her girls, were always raising funds for charities and performing around the city (and region) for free, giving their time to help others.   What have you done, Mr. Kane?  Besides write a snarky article about something you know nothing of.



This is so offensive.  Fancy-opera-gays?  Discount Drag???  Gay psychologists office?
Why not throw out some more stereotypes just to round that out some more?

This insulted so many people who were involved for 23 years at that little hole in the wall doing fundraising for charities as well as just enjoying ourselves. 
These nasty comments just spit on our collective memories of our friendships and efforts to have a fun inclusive atmosphere and support charitable causes.
Oh -- and Marlenas' was dog-friendly too, so where the heck did that come from -- perhaps because you never spent time there or enough time to actually know what the old bar was about?

Beyond satire and sarcasm and into the realm of hateful pandering.

Raquel Santiago
Raquel Santiago

I actually am insulted by the article, is is only 25 percent ADA accessible as those big mastiff's block wheelchair access. And the new site is more for the yuppie than being all inclusive. While i hang with all crowd's, i dont discriminate. No mention of the fabulous shows that Galilea and Marlena or Tiger Lily or anyone performed over the years at the fabulous Marlena's or where the moved to. This is basically an advertisement to try and boost their clientele there. Really? What do we look like NEW?


@Jake369 Wow. you comment on how stupid and offensive the article was and then follow up with a doubled down Stupid and offensive comment yourself. 

Bravo for lack of self awareness. 

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