The San Francisco Board of Supervisors
on Tuesday approved legislation that could pave the way for the
return of gay bathhouses in the city.
District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman
introduced his legislation in February.
“In the midst of the current COVID-19
pandemic, we are reminded that our best public policy decisions will
be driven by data, science and facts, not by panic or political
pressure,” said Mandelman. “The closure of the bathhouses in San
Francisco, and the decades-long perpetuation of policies requiring
invasive patron monitoring and the ban on private rooms, have no
scientific justification today.”
The legislation rolls back rules
established at the height of the AIDS epidemic prohibiting private
rooms in bathhouses and sex venues and requiring such establishments
to monitor the sexual activities of patrons.
The city targeted bathhouse owners and
labeled them a public health nuisance in a lawsuit filed in 1984. The
legal action led to the adoption of minimum standards by the
Department of Public Health that are still in effect today. While the
bathhouses were allowed to remain open on the condition that they
monitor for unsafe sex and remove the doors from rooms, all of them
San Francisco, which reported the first
case of AIDS in the country in 1980, has seen a dramatic decline in
HIV infections (below 200 for the first time in 2018), leading LGBT
activists to argue that the current regulations unfairly target gay
men and that bathhouses can be used to promote safer sex education.
Two Bay Area gay adult businesses,
Watergarden, a bathhouse in San Jose, and Blow Buddies, a sex venue
in San Francisco, closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mandelman, who is gay, said that he
hopes bathhouses can aid in the city's economic recovery.
“During the 1970s and early 80s
bathhouses were a focal point of gay social life in San Francisco and
were important community meeting places where friends would gather to
share stories, dance to the latest disco hits or watch a live show,”
said Mandelman. “With many businesses closing due to COVID-19, I
hope this legislation will make the operation of adult sex venues
more feasible and will encourage the opening of new businesses that
will aid in our economic recovery when it is safe to do so.”
Reporting by The Bay Area Reporter
in February found no proposed openings for bathhouses in San