Does Nightlife in the Castro Have a Negative Effect on the Locals?

My students’ experiences last fall included interviewing and quoting some of their neighborhood beat sources multiple times for different story assignments. As the semester unfolded, a few of these human sources would characterize themselves differently during interviews, meaning preferred pronouns might change. In another story by the same student covering the Castro, Jesse Chang is characterized more like the drag queen alter ego, using she/her. Here, Jesse Chang shows preference for he/him/his.

By Jessica Delatorre

The Castro district’s nightlife is full of roamers who are bar hopping and going to restaurants all over the neighborhood. From dim street lights to crowds trying to get into bars, the popularity of the neighborhood can be a concern to locals and may result in a situation among staff and management at the bars.

     Jesse Chang, a drag queen who also goes by the stage name Mimi Osa, often performs in the Castro. He hasn’t witnessed any problems with drunks but was taught early in his drag career never to travel alone.

    “I have seen drunk bar patrons get physical with other bar patrons, bar staff and even go-go boys,” Chang says.

    Recently, he saw a manager go after a go-go dancer and grab him. Suddenly, there was a physical altercation.

     “I had to quickly scoot out of the way to avoid getting caught in the middle,” Chang says. “It’s really unfortunate that these kinds of situations happen because people come out to the Castro to hang out and relax with community.”

     He says the night life can be disruptive from as far as five blocks away from where he lives. He says it takes away from feelings of safety and security in the neighborhood.

     “When I’m in drag, I always get Lyft or Uber for safety,” Chang says. “You just never know how someone who is drunk is going to act or react.”

     Fred Long, manager of the Midnight Sun bar at 4067 18th St., feels differently than Chang does. He doesn’t believe the Castro’s nightlife results in many problems. He says they have a security guard at the bar most nights and if a hate crime happened, the suspect would be “outnumbered.”

     Greg Carey, chief of patrol for Castro Community on Patrol, says, “The Castro has been a thriving community center for more than 50 years. Residents need to work with authorities when there are problems. Many don’t call the police but instead complain on social media, which really doesn’t help.”

     A one-time Castro resident for 14 years, Carey says, “Any bar or nightclub will have its share of people who drink too much. This is true of every neighborhood, including the Mission, North Beach, Tenderloin and so on. The Castro is no different.”

     Carey adds, “Some visitors have little respect for the locals, with loud noise, fights, littering, haphazard parking and general mischief. However, there is little the bars can do to manage people who are not employees. Social decorum has broken down but this is not an issue that is any better or worse in the Castro than it is in other areas.”

      According to a San Francisco police log, multiple, daily calls come from the Castro described as threats or harassment. The most recent call about gunshots fired was at 1:31 a.m. Aug.8 and before that, a similar call was placed at 9:56 p.m. July 24. Although these and other calls may not necessarily involve intoxicated people, they all generally occurred late at night or past midnight.

     Without a doubt, the Castro is known for entertainment and weekend nightlife that often attract people from all over the Bay Area. But what happens there can deeply impact locals far beyond just a fun night out among visitors.     

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