Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bar Review: The Transfer

The Transfer, as befits a bar at the crossroads of a MUNI bus and underground line, suffers from something of an identity crisis. Originally the last stop for the hungry ghosts that prowled the Castro at all hours of the day and night, a place so dismal that the one time I entered to use the ATM I felt like I had been sucked down into a Virgilian Hades, the bar was bought about two and a half years ago by Castro entertainment and hospitality mogul Greg Bronstein. He spruced it up, cleaned out the cobwebs, put a cheeky graffiti mural on the back wall, and installed real windows that let in the sunshine and chased the vampires away. The manager at the time, Shawn, had a great relationship with a number of local promoters, and thus Bus Station John established a base in the Castro with his Double Dutch Disco parties, Cock Block appeared for the girls, and there was a steady stream of party nights that transformed The Transfer into a new bar full of hip young things. Then, several months ago, Bronstein sold the bar, fired Shawn, and the whole identity of the bar was brought into question. Ask a gay guy about it and he might say “Oh, isn’t that a straight bar now,” while a straight guy would probably say “Oh, isn’t that a gay bar?” Bus Station John still does Double Dutch Disco parties there every first Sunday, but the bar also hosts bar nights for Mission hipsters riding fixies, and it looks like Cock Block is moving on to Fat City. As for the other parties, they’ve come and gone so quickly that they never had a chance establish themselves or even pull up the bar’s reputation with their own. So what kind of bar is it? Depends on the day of the week and month, it seems.

The bar itself rally has little to distinguish it – there’s a bar, and a pool table, some bench seating built around the pool table like you’d find in any gay bar, some tables and tall chairs for perching, and filthy, filthy bathrooms. A lot of money and effort has gone into the DJ setup and on my last visit, during Refuge by the Staple crew (which is also moving on to other venues), there was a nice set of Mackie speakers for sound. But I don’t understand how this bar turns into a dance space, or if it really even does. Without moving the pool table the dance space is smaller than UndergroundSF, and there’s not much in the way of seating beyond the bar itself on the other side of the room. Move the pool table and the space opens up, but all the real action here seems to be at the bar. So, is it a bar or a dance club? It’s definitely the former, and wants to be the latter, but I haven’t seen it take off yet.

This bar is three blocks from my apartment and yet I’ve rarely set foot inside because I have no idea what’s going on with it. If I want an easy drink there’s the Pilser at equal distance, with a back patio that’s much nicer than sitting inside when the weather’s good. If I want to go dancing there are plenty of other options, though they might be further away. So what does The Transfer have to offer that other bars don’t? I dunno, if you all have an answer, let me know.

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