Longest-running trans cabaret show in SoMa, San Francisco announces closure

The club will be closing its doors for the final time. (IZ HAFALIA/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The longest-running trans cabaret show in South of Market, San Francisco, has announced it’s planning to close its doors for the final time. 

AsiaSF the restaurant and nightlife venue on the corner of Howard and Ninth streets in the area announced it will be halting business operations from 31 March. The date of closure is also the same day as Transgender Day of Visibility.

The restaurant which describes itself as “a visionary pioneer in supporting the transgender community” has been running for over 26 years since it opened in 1997.

A spokesperson for the club announced a press release on 5 February, noting its “award-winning cuisine and legendary, internationally-acclaimed entertainment”. They did not mention the reason behind the planned closure. 

“It’s very possible that pop-up editions of AsiaSF might come forth,” said founder and CEO Larry Hashbarger. “This is very much a transition and the end of an era. However, hopefully, it is the beginning of new opportunities for our vision and the Ladies of AsiaSF.”

A second venue in Palm Springs, California, closed its doors for a final time in 2022 following the fallout from the pandemic.

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Asia SF has previously faced backlash for its alleged exoticization of trans performers. Still, it has long provided trans women of colour in the area a platform to secure steady employment. 

The news comes as 17 nightlife venues including Pryzm, Atik and Liquid & Envy across the pond in the UK are closing with immediate effect. The UK’s biggest nightclub operator Rekom UK went bust in January and is subsequently closing doors to multiple venues nationwide. 

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They cited an “extremely difficult” year as its reason for closing the venues, given the UK’s cost of living crisis which is a “challenging time for the industry”. 

Peter Marks, chairman of Rekon, said: “This outcome follows an extremely difficult period for the late-night sector, thanks to the combination of the cost-of-living crisis hitting younger generations and students particularly hard, as well as the rising national living wage alongside increased business rates and costs of operating.”

The closure will also see 11 sites, including Pryzm Kingston, being sold to other operators, so will remain open. A further 12 venues will stay under the ownership of Rekon UK.

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