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Haight Legacy Business Candidates: Trax Bar and Cal Surplus

These businesses are candidates in our Heritage in the Neighborhoods: Haight-Ashbury legacy business voting contest, running from August 1-31, 2022. VOTE HERE

According to the Citywide Historic Context Statement for LGBTQ History in San Francisco by Donna Graves and Shayne Watson, Trax Bar (1437 Haight Street) is the longest-running queer bar in the neighborhood and the only remnant of the Haight’s history as a pre-Castro LGBTQ enclave. The space that houses Trax has been queer since the early 1970s when it was a gay bar called the Question Mark (the original Question Mark dates back to the 1950s).

Exterior of Trax Bar, 1437 Haight Street. SF Heritage photo.
Inside Trax Bar. Photo by Dipesh G. on Yelp.

SF Heritage Instagram follower @thenickdanford shared this memory of Trax: “Some years ago, my 25th birthday fell on Haight Street Fair weekend. I asked a potential roommate I’d met on Craigslist to meet me and some friends at Trax. I entered the bar, dropped into the splits (Ha!), and gained not only a new living situation, but also a best friend 🙂 @jasonjervis

Other long-gone LGBTQ institutions in the neighborhood were the lesbian bar Whoo Cares at 782 Haight, open in the 1950s; Romeo’s at 1605 Haight, a divey bar popular with lesbians; the Golden Cask restaurant and bar at 1725 Haight, opened in the early 1960s and owned by successful lesbian businesswoman Charlotte Coleman; the Park Bowl at 1855 Haight, a bowling alley popular with gay and lesbian leagues in the 1960s; and the famous I-Beam gay disco club, which opened at 1748 Haight in the late 1970s and stayed in operation through the 1990s. Club Deluxe was originally opened as a gay bar called DeLuxe Bar in 1978 before it was renamed as Club Deluxe in 1989.

With the exception of the buildings that housed the I-Beam and the briefly gay Haight Theater at 1702 Haight, all the LGBTQ-associated buildings in Haight-Ashbury are extant.

California Surplus, located at 1541 Haight Street. SF Heritage photo.

California Surplus was opened by Jennifer Lutes in 1982, and is one of the foremost suppliers of military surplus materials in the city. Among its longtime customers are those stocking up for Burning Man, who stop by the shop by for bandanas, flashlights and headlamps, knives, big-rimmed hats, and scarves.

Inside Cal Surplus. SF Heritage photo.

Longtime employee Manny Bello told SF Heritage that in addition to Burners, the shop’s workwear is now becoming popular with the many of the Haight’s younger denizens.

Legacy BusinessesHaight-Ashbury

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