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Owner of San Francisco's now-defunct lesbian bar still considers it to be a success

‘It was a crazy business model, but it worked’

Owner of San Francisco's now-defunct lesbian bar still considers it to be a success
Outside of The Lexington Club, which closed in 2015.

The Lexington Club (known colloquially as The Lex) was a lesbian bar in San Francisco that, despite catering to such a small demographic, was in business for 20 years.

GSN spoke with Lila Thirkield, The Lex’s owner, about the bar’s legacy and how San Francisco’s social landscape has changed.

What’s she up to now?

Since The Lex shut its doors in 2015, Thirkield has been busy working at her other bar, Virgil’s Sea Room, which first opened before The Lex even closed.

Though Virgil’s Sea Room is co-owned by a gay man, making it entirely queer-owned, the clientele isn’t specifically queer, as was the case with The Lex. Thirkield wanted to expand to a broader demographic.

Thirkield has remained close with The Lex’s staff and its regular patrons. In fact, the manager of The Lex currently works at Virgil’s Sea Room as well.

‘This is a community,’ Thirkield says. ‘Things just don’t stop because a place closes.’

And though The Lex closed down, Thirkield doesn’t see that as a failure.

‘I consider The Lex a huge success,’ she says, pointing out that the bar lasted 20 years even though it catered to such a specific demographic.

‘It was a crazy business model, but it worked,’ Thirkield states.

San Francisco is becoming pricey

The reason The Lex was unable to remain open, despite being a popular hangout for both locals
and out-of-towners alike, was because of the rising cost of living in San Francisco.

Gentrification over the last few years has caused many locals to be displaced because they could no longer afford the rising rent prices.

‘[San Francisco] is expensive and it makes me sad because it’s intimidating for young gay people to move here,’ Thirkield explains.

The Lex’s legacy

Still, Thirkield is proud of The Lex’s legacy not only as a bar, but also as a community center.

She discusses how The Lex’s walls were always lined with flyers for upcoming events taking place there. In fact, there wasn’t an event that ever took place there that didn’t have a flyer. This, Thirkield believes, allowed people to know what was going on even if they weren’t well-connected on Facebook.

Thirkield also describes what it was like to have young queer people, new to San Francisco, discovering themselves for the first time. The bar allowed these young people to experiment in a real space (unlike on the internet) with their identities.

‘Figuring out where you desire lies comes from being in that space,’ Thirkield says.

Where do lesbians hang out now?

While the Castro district is a hub for gay men, unfortunately Thirkield doesn’t see any equivalent for gay and queer women.

‘That [hub for gay women] used to be the Mission district, but I think that time has come and gone,’ she says.

Still, Thirkield’s love for San Francisco is as strong as ever, despite the economic problems.

Thirkield is confident that San Francisco will always remain a liberal and accepting city, regardless of who’s running the country.

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