San Francisco has removed its ban on gay bathhouses.

San Francisco has repealed its de facto ban on gay bathhouses. The ban was introduced during the 1980s, at the height at the AIDS epidemic.

The regulations banned private rooms with locked doors and employees had to monitor sex between patrons. The lone gay bathhouse in the city currently remains closed because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The repal comes following a campaign from Rafael Mandelman, the supervisor of District 8, which includes parts of the city like The Castro, Diamond Heights and Eureka Valley.

The decision was confirmed to Mandelman’s office last week, after being delayed from the start of the month, as some employees were on vacation, while others were dealing with a rising number of coronavirus cases and hospitalisations.

Mandelman’s office was given a set of rules, titled the ‘Minimum Standards for Operation of Sex Clubs, Commercial Sex Venues and Parties’, governing how gay bathhouses should begin operating in the city. A copy of these rules was shared with the Bay City Reporter.

Some of the more important rules state there needs to be signage in multiple languages detailing how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, customers may not be admitted if they don’t have a valid ID showing they’re over 18 or if they’re clearly intoxicated and wash-up facilities have to be provided.

Speaking about the repeal of the ban, Mandelman said: “It is symbolically significant right now. Whether it is significant on the ground depends on if entrepreneurs with the vision and financial capacities and the savvy to open can and operate one of these.”

He also praised the rules that they were given, saying: “It seems like a reasonable set of rules for the running of a bathhouse, which is what we wanted.”

He added that coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, the move was a “good development” and that it “sets the stage for bathhouses to be part of our economic recovery.”

The move was also praised by Robert Goldfarb, the president of the South of Market LGBTQ cultural district’s board, who said: “I think our community as well as other communities have a long history of enjoying in-person meetings. The pandemic has certainly affected many of the businesses in our area.

“If someone were to start now, then by the time they would open the timing probably would be ideal because we would be looking at the pandemic in the rearview mirror just in time for them to open.”