Bathhouses are such a staple of gay culture that it may come as a surprise to some that 1984 regulations put in place in San Francisco effectively closed down these establishments in the city.
However, that may soon change as gay Castro District Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is pushing for the lifting of those measures and hopefully encourage the re-emergence of those establishments in San Francisco.
In a statement, Mandelman pointed out that these regulations were put in place during the height of the AIDS crisis and no longer reflect the current situation with HIV.
“Decades later, with the emergence of PrEP and in light of San Francisco’s reduction in HIV diagnoses to under 200 for the first time since the 1980s, these regulations — including a ban on private rooms and required monitoring of patrons’ sexual activities — have no public health rationale and need to be changed,” he said.
Back in 1984, bathhouses were sued by the city and county of San Francisco for being a “public health nuisance.” While a judge ruled that they could remain open, they were required to employ “monitors” and tear down most of the walls for video rooms, cubicles, and individual booths. Fourteen bathhouses were then closed later in the year, with the remaining ones soon to follow.
However, the HIV landscape in San Francisco is now completely different. As pointed out by Mandelman and reported by The Bay Area Reporter, new HIV diagnoses in 2018 dipped below 200, with San Francisco on track to reducing new HIV cases in the area by 90 percent.
Mark Haney, a District 6 Supervisor and representative for the South of Market area, is co-sponsoring Mandelman’s legislation and said that the current rules are “discriminatory.”
“I think it was a discriminatory rule that doesn’t have any backing in public health and so it is overdue that they change it. I am glad they are coming around to it,” he said to The Bay Area Reporter.
Should the measure pass, the city health department’s minimum standards for the operation of adult sex venues will be revised so that locked doors and sex monitoring by staff will no longer be required.
Adam4Adam blog readers, we’d like to hear about your thoughts and also your favorite bathhouse experiences. Tell us about it in the comments section below!