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Queer-Owned and Hetero-Friendly: A Safe Haven in San Francisco’s Mission Bernal

El Rio, a bar that transcends the traditional nightlife scene, is in the heart of San Francisco’s vibrant Mission Bernal corridor. Established in 1978 by visionaries Malcolm Thornley and Robert Nett, this queer-owned and hetero-friendly establishment has become a cornerstone of the community. Lynne Angel, co-owner of El Rio, shares insights into the bar’s history, its unwavering dedication to community service, and its pivotal role as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ+ community.

A Legacy of Inclusivity and Community Service

El Rio’s inception was driven by a desire to create a space that embraced diversity, inclusivity, and community spirit. Thornley and Nett envisioned a bar where individuals could freely express themselves without conforming to societal stereotypes. This vision has been meticulously upheld through the years, with El Rio evolving into a vibrant hub that welcomes everyone, regardless of their identity.

The establishment’s commitment to the community extends beyond its welcoming atmosphere. El Rio is renowned for its efforts to support underrepresented groups through fundraisers and benefits. By maintaining affordable prices and offering a sliding scale for cover charges, El Rio ensures its doors are open to as many people as possible, embodying the founders’ mission of accessibility and community support.

Creating a Safe and Inclusive Space for All

El Rio’s dedication to safety and inclusivity is unparalleled. Recognizing the nuanced needs of its patrons, the bar invests in regular staff training on de-escalation, first aid, and overdose prevention, among other critical skills. This proactive approach ensures that El Rio remains a haven where joy, relaxation, and comfort are the norm for anyone who enters its doors.

Salsa Sundays: A Tradition of Rhythmic Joy

One of El Rio’s hallmark events, Salsa Sundays, has been a staple since the bar’s early days. This tradition celebrates the rich musical heritage of the Bay Area and honors the founders’ love for salsa music. Every fourth Sunday of the month, El Rio comes alive with the rhythms of some of the best salsa musicians, continuing a legacy that has spanned decades.

A Kaleidoscope of Events and Theme Nights

El Rio’s calendar is a testament to its vibrant and inclusive spirit, featuring many events catering to diverse interests, from Mango, a celebration for queer women of color, to Daytime Realness and R&B & Ribs, El Rio partners with local promoters and artists to create unforgettable experiences. These events showcase local DJs and performers’ talents and foster a sense of community and belonging among patrons.

The Impact of a Mission-Bernal Business

Having rooted itself in the Mission Bernal neighborhood for over four decades, El Rio’s success reflects its deep connections with the local community. The bar’s enduring presence is a tribute to the neighborhood’s support, which has helped shape El Rio’s identity and contributed to its legacy as a beloved San Francisco institution.

The Significance of Being a Legacy Business

Being recognized as a San Francisco Legacy Business is a badge of honor for El Rio. This designation underscores the bar’s long-standing contribution to the city’s cultural and social fabric. After 44 years, El Rio’s commitment to its mission and community is as strong as ever, with the establishment continuing to serve as a beacon of inclusivity and support.

A Message to the El Rio Community

El Rio extends a heartfelt thank you to the loyal patrons and newcomers alike for their support and love. For those yet to experience the magic of El Rio, a visit promises an escape into a world of joy, engagement, and community spirit. With a diverse and dynamic calendar of events, El Rio invites everyone to find their niche and join in the celebration of diversity and inclusion.

Stay Connected with El Rio

For those interested in discovering more about El Rio’s vibrant events and community initiatives, visiting the El Rio website or following the bar on social media is the best way to stay informed. El Rio continues to be a pillar of the San Francisco nightlife scene, inviting everyone to experience the warmth, diversity, and inclusivity that define the El Rio experience.

Based on an Interview with Lynn Angel of El Rio on Bernal Connect

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