New Face for LGBT Business

Young Energy Charges LGBT Business Chamber


You’ve probably heard the initials – GGBA – but may not have had a clear picture of what they mean. GGBA actually means Golden Gate Business Association, the first LGBT Chamber of Commerce in America, begun in San Francisco in 1974. Their mission was to champion opportunity, development and advocacy for the LGBT and allied business community.


Today, as a non-profit, membership-driven organization of Bay Area businesses, community organizations and individuals, members range from small businesses to large corporations. Member benefits are tailored to the type, size and needs of each business, whether small, direct consumer retail operations; so called “business to business” opportunities where LGBT businesses can fit into supply chains whether LGBT or not; and an LGBT community focused on economic empowerment.


Five months ago the organization hired a new Managing Director, 31 year-old Jason Holstein, previously Corporate Development Director for the Metropolitan Business Association in Orlando, Central Florida’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. In that role, Holstein and his team were recognized by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce with the 2012 Rising Star Chamber Award. Among their accomplishments over four years were tripling the organization’s size and more than quadrupling revenues.


In the time since Holstein arrived in San Francisco, the GGBA Board has been busy re-crafting the organization’s mission, overseeing the creation of a new web site, and implementing a new SEO-optimized and social media-enabled online membership directory.


“We envision an economically empowered San Francisco/Bay Area LGBT business community that inspires others,” said Holstein. “We provide opportunities for marketing, networking, procurement, and referral-based business growth, support development of business skills and expertise through workshops and seminars, and continue to advocate for positive economic, social, and political change.”


Holstein reports GGBA’s membership is up nearly 60 percent since September, which he attributes to engaging new and returning members with improved benefits, better communication, a focus on diversity and inclusion, and a rededicated commitment to members’ success.


The revised values statement gives particular attention to diversity and inclusion. The focus is on collaborating with diverse business communities and organizations, maintaining an inclusive culture, and reflecting the diversity of the LGBT community in leadership opportunities.


In Holstein’s view the key to a vital, successful and influential GGBA is delivering exceptional service to members and excellent member benefits. Recently revised membership levels provide additional benefits better tailored to the type, size and needs of each member whether they are seeking to do business with individual consumers, small businesses or large companies. Holstein and the board were able to do this while keeping membership prices flat.


One of the major areas of focus for GGBA in the coming years is the inclusion of LGBT businesses in procuring opportunities from corporate and government entities. This year, in honor of GGBA’s 40th anniversary, the annual awards gala will include the launching of a “40 for Forty” Campaign to certify 40 LGBT-owned Business Enterprises (LGBTBE’s). Currently in San Francisco there are 22 certified LGBTBEs.


In addition, GGBA is a founding affiliate chamber of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which certifies 51 percent or greater LGBT-owned businesses for procurement opportunities with large companies like Wells Fargo, PG&E, US Bank, New York Life, and others. In 2013, for the first time, the California Department of General Services began to provide its suppliers with the opportunity to self-identify as an LGBT-owned business.


Chamber programs include the monthly San Francisco and quarterly East Bay Make Contacts, a quarterly Talk of the Town on topical issues, and bimonthly onboarding programs for new members. A quarterly networking event for women business owners and professionals is also in the planning stages.


The first Make Contact meeting of 2014 will be in the city on Jan. 7 at Recology with the Feb. 4 meeting at the American Conservatory Theater, each running from 6 to 8 p.m More details at


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Hi Tops: Castro’s One-Of-A-Kind Gay Sports Bar



A sports bar. A gay sports bar. In the Castro. Don’t we already have one of those?! If you thought so, you’ll be surprised to find out that Hi Tops in the Castro is the first of its kind in our queer-loving city. And its about time!


Although gay sports bars are already popular in other cities like New York and LA, San Francisco has been mysteriously lagging. Maybe it’s because the city figured that with our all-inclusiveness, every sports bar is indeed a gay sports bar.


While this may be true, there was no place that exuded the values of a sports bar mingling with the fun-loving, well-designed nature of the prototypical gay bar.


Opening late last year, Hi Tops is providing a specific fare for a specific crowd in the Castro. Owner Jesse Woodward discovered this lack when playing in an SF gay men’s sports league and realizing there was no specific place they could all go out after that was the equivalent venue to match their league. When Castro club Lime closed in early 2012, the opening was there and the time was rife for Hi Tops to come to fruition.


Since then, the bar has been growing in popularity, gaining a certain notoriety in the gay community and around for being known as ‘The Gay Sports Bar.’ It is a moniker that is hard to shake, and one that Hi-Tops seems alright with having stick around.


Walking into the bar on a Monday night in winter, you’ll be shocked to realize it’s Monday. Well, maybe only if you’re not a sports fan, because Monday is perhaps one of the biggest sports nights of the week. Football, basketball, the bar was even showing the English Premiere League (soccer for the newbs out there).


There are other elements that note this as not your average sports bar. Maybe it’s the lack of ‘bros’ and perhaps the sports jerseys adorning the mostly well-exercised crowd seemed to cling a bit tighter than for your regular sports dude. Additionally the walls are adorned with hipster chic posters advertising what seem to be boxing matches, but a second glance will tip you off to the fact that the boxers have names like ‘Logan ‘BJ’ Box. Cheeky.


The bar also features a number of deals, including 25 cent chicken wing Mondays, and the bartenders have been known to serve up brews a little less clothed as the night trudges its way to midnight, especially on Thursday nights, when from 10 p.m. to midnight the night becomes ‘Gym Class,’ when scantily clad hotties serve free whiskey shots near the goods in their jock straps.


It is clear that this may not actually be for everyone. You might not join up forces with your straight man crew to go to Hi Tops unless one of you might be batting for the other team, however there was in fact a rather diverse crowd. There were boys, but there were also lots of girls. Groups of friends were gathering, discussing life, love, and teamwork.


And the attraction is not only the sports and chic, gym-style, surroundings. The bar menu is much more than just wings and fries, and adds a tasteful and tasty element to your usual bar grub. Instead of just a burger you can choose from a blackened ahi tuna burger or a 50/50 bacon beef burger or even a pork chop on a stick. The place sure knows how to look and smell great, like a great date.


Next time you’re trying to watch our boys in gold and red, consider watching it with the boys at Hi Tops. It’s a whole lot more than a sports bar and its right here in the Castro on Market streets between Noe and Sanchez. Because, there is nothing like guys and balls.


Hi Tops will show the 49ers play the Green Bay Packers Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in the NFC Wildcard Playoff game in Lambeau Field. The low is expected to be -17.


Hi-Tops is located at 2247 Market St.




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Housing Woes Continue To Ail Neighborhood into New Year


Historic Cafe Du Nord, Swedish American Hall Being Sold


Restaurateur applying for food permits



A 107-year-old building that acts as the hub of upper Market Street’s avante guarde live music scene is undergoing some major changes.


The leases at Café du Nord and the Swedish-American Hall, located from 2168-2174 Market St., are in the process of being sold to an investment group led by Dylan MacNiven, founder of Woodhouse Fish Co. and West of Pecos, and Enrique Landa, co-founder of Cordarounds. The renovations will include the expensive Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance upgrade of an elevator, something the property built in 1907 never had. The Swedish-American Society continues to own the building.


The new owners are also seeking a conditional use permit to allow the expansion of the existing restaurant to “all four floors of the existing multi-story building.” In addition, all staff is reportedly being let go. It is unclear to what extent, if any, current leaseholder Guy Carson would contribute to entertainment bookings.


While this may raise eyebrows about the venue’s future of live music, MacNiven recently wrote in an email to SF Weekly, “I am intending for live music to stay [at Café du Nord] … Once the hall re-opens, my ultimate goal would be to have a better live music experience than exists now.”


A public meeting before the Planning Commission will be held on Thursday, January 9 in City Hall, Room 400 not before noon in order to discuss the conditional use permit.



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In-law units


Legalizing illegal units may not fill gaps



Legal in-law units won’t meet the Castro’s most pressing housing needs, says one housing advocate. That’s because landlords can set the rent for the new units at market rate. Advocates also fear that landlords will convert the new units to tenancies-in-common.


“It’s meeting a need,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, counseling director at Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, admitting that legal in-law units will fill a demand for lower income housing in the Castro. The price of in-law units is usually lower than of standard apartments.


But for workers in the Castro who earn minimum wage, those with AIDS getting by on Social Security, seniors and homeless LGBT youth, the neighborhood needs low-income housing. Mecca suggests live/work lofts as a solution, saying he wishes District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who proposed in-law unit legislation for the Castro, had met with him and other housing advocates before drafting the proposal.


“We have a crisis in District 8,” said Mecca, who has lived in the Castro for 22 years.


The housing situation threatens to change the cultural character of the neighborhood, where people with alternative sexual orientations feel safe and accepted. Unfortunately, that seems to be changing. Ellis Act evictions – forced tenant removals that occur when a landlord decides to go out of business – have hit District 8, where the Castro is located, harder than any other district in the city, Mecca claims.


Data from the San Francisco Rent Board – which is broken out by zip code – provides some support for this. Zip code 94110 had the most Ellis Act evictions between December 1, 2012, and November 30, 2013, of any zip code in the City. Zip code 94110 coincides most closely with the Mission District, part of which is in District 8. The Rent Board data show 46 evictions for that time period.


Zip code 94114, which most closely coincides with the Castro neighborhood, registered 14 evictions, according to the Rent Board data.


Recognizing the situation, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener proposed legislation late last year. Board President and District 3 Supervisor David Chiu is proposing similar legislation that would make in-law units legal throughout the city. Chiu introduced his proposal at the same time as Wiener.


Wiener’s proposal will amend “the Planning Code to allow the construction of an additional dwelling unit or units within the existing envelope of a residential building or auxiliary structure on the same lot on any parcel in the Castro Street Neighborhood Commercial District and within 1,750 feet of the District boundaries,” the proposal reads.


Currently, the proposal is under consideration at the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the legislation in mid-February, and the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee will take up the ordinance shortly thereafter, said Andres Power, an aide to Wiener.


In addition, the Rent Board and the Mayor’s Office of Housing are reviewing the legislation.


“All land use legislation is advanced to multiple city departments for review and comment,” Power said.


Though the new ordinance cannot tell landlords at what price to set the initial rent, the proposed legislation does mandate that a unit or units added to a rent controlled building also be rent controlled, Supervisor Wiener said. “Under state law, we cannot require a landlord to set the initial rent at a specific level. But we can limit rent increases for new units in buildings that are already rent-controlled.”


Saturday, January 11, the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition is hosting a free tenant convention in the LGBT Center at Market and Octavia streets from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. to develop strategies to stop neighborhood evictions, defend those being evicted, stop gentrification and the displacement of people from the neighborhood and teach tenants about their rights when threatened by eviction. The coalition will be taking suggestions for a ballot initiative next November, which will be presented to a citywide tenants’ convention February 8.


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Magnet’s 2014 Slate Looks to Attract


Magnet has community events every month ranging from first Fridays where a new artist is displayed for the month, and their book club.


Jared T. Hemming is the Community Organizer for Magnet at 4122 18th St. (between Castro and Collingwood streets)




I think most people are aware that Magnet offers HIV testing, as well as testing for other STDs, but they might not know that you host events and that Magnet is a community and art space too.




Exactly. We do have monthly events that are recurring and we try to throw in other special events as well.




What do you have coming up this month, in January?




We have four events that we do do every month. The first one is the first Friday of every month and it is our art opening. What we do is, a new artist puts up their work for the whole month. We throw a party for the artist; we have wine; we have food. It’s a time to interact with the artist - an opportunity to meet the artist and to see the work.


From there we have our open mic night and that is on the third Wednesday of every month. It’s called ‘Smack Dab’. Sign up starts at 7:30 and we start the performances at 8:00. We get a variety of things: we get poetry, reading stories, people performing music; we’ve had a puppet show, magic shows, comedians. That’s been going on for 10 years; they just celebrated their 10 year anniversary.


The third one is we do a swing dance night. It’s big band swing music. We have a lesson from 7:00 to 7:30, and then from 7:30 to about 9:30 we just have free dance, where you can just come in and dance. That’s the fourth Saturday of every month.


The final thing that we do every month is our book club. We decide two months in advance what book we’re going to read and then we have an open discussion about the book. Last month we had the author join us and for January we’re having Kemble Scott. He is a local author and he’s going to be joining us for discussion as well.




What’s the name of the book?




It’s called ‘The Sower’.




And aside from your ongoing monthly events, you’d mentioned that you have special events.




Exactly. We have two different nights that we’ve added for January. We have a comedy night; some local LGBT comedians are going to be performing. I think there’s a group of five of them. They’ll be doing a performance from 7:00 to 10:00 on January 18th. That’s our first time doing a comedy night here.


Then we also have another event - ‘F**K Like a Porn Star’. We are having three local porn stars come in and share their experiences with doing porn - how it affects their life, how it affects their health. It’s going to be a question and answer and a little bit of a script that we’re going to go by, and have them tell about their experiences. The three that are coming are Michael Brandon, Adam Herst and Kory Mitchell.




That’s great. Do you know your events for February yet?




I believe for February it’s just our regular four events. I’m also working on doing an LGBT movie night, where we can all just eat popcorn and enjoy a movie here in the Castro.




Magnet’s also open as a community space, so people can feel welcome to come and utilize that, no?




Absolutely. We definitely keep our doors open, We’re open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 to 6:00. People can come in and sit down if they need to charge their phone. or if they just want to chill out for a little bit, they’re welcome to come in and do that. We have a lot of magazines and newspapers and literature about HIV and different organizations and different clubs in the city as well.




Right, because you’re a touchstone for various other organizations as well. For Magnet in general and also for the events there, you need volunteers from time to time. I understand that you’re always recruiting for those positions.




That’s very true, yes. We have a huge volunteer force behind Magnet; we have about 100 volunteers currently. That’s with the clinic side of it and also special events. I have my own little team of volunteers that come and help out with setting up and being part of the events.




There’s something really nice about having all these events in a space that’s dedicated to the health of gay men. All of these things definitely help health in general.




Absolutely. There [have] been many studies done that [show that] people that are more social and more outgoing and participate in the community are living healthier lives.




The Castro is obviously a community that’s well versed in the arts overall, so it’s great that your events are all participatory. It’s good to meet the artists; you never know what connection might lead you to a new inspiration.




Yeah, it’s really neat to see those kind of connections made. Bringing in people for open mic night, it leads to other opportunities for those people. Even with the dance night, if they’re doing a dance night somewhere else, they’re able to advertise while we’re doing the dancing. It just leads to a lot more knowledge about the community and what’s going on.




It should be said too that another nice thing about Magnet is that it’s not like a bar or a club that has a particular clientele, it’s really a very diverse group that makes use of your space.




Exactly, it’s very diverse. The different activities bring in different people, definitely. We are trying to keep it as open as we can to everyone and make it a really safe environment for anyone that wants to come in.




Aside from the events that you yourself organize, Magnet also offers massage and acupuncture, in addition to it’s other health services. It’s really a body, mind. spirit kind of environment.




It is definitely. We have two days a week that we do chair massage, so there [are] massage therapists that come in and offer their services to clients that come in and sign up for appointments. Then on Wednesdays we have our acupuncturist [who] offers that to anyone in the community that needs or wants that. We’re trying to give a holistic view of everything - not only sexual health, but our physical health as well. It’s great. I feel really privileged to be a part of the organization and to do my part to help bring the community together and make it a stronger community.




How did you get started working with Magnet?




I actually started volunteering as an HIV test counselor. There was an opening for the community organizer position and I have done a lot of different volunteer community activities over the years. With the experience that I have I got put into this position. I’ve only been in it six months, so I’m still fairly new, but I’m getting in here and trying to create some new events, and just keep it going. I feel very lucky to be here.


Photo courtesy of Jared Hemming



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Missing Man’s Body Found in Bay



The San Francisco Medical Examiner has identified a body found in San Francisco Bay as that of Paulo Netto. Netto went missing last year during the weekend before Halloween. Just before his disappearance in the Mission District, he called his family in Brazil to say he was being followed.


“It’s a very sad case,” said Greggy Carey, chair, Castro Community on Patrol (CCOP), a neighborhood safety group that had been working to find Netto.


Netto was 22 years old at the time and a Los Angeles resident. He was in San Francisco looking for a college to attend.


So far the examiner’s office has only been able to identify Netto, who an unidentified person found floating in McCovey Cove, near AT&T Park. The examiner’s office is very short staffed, so it hasn’t finished determining the cause of death. It may be several more weeks or longer before it determines the cause of death. Police pulled the body from the cove November 9.


“It was very simple,” said Sergeant Danielle Newman, media relations, San Francisco Police. Newman said a person discovered the body in the Bay, and called police. Police picked up the body, and at the time, the examiner’s office did not rule the death suspicious. So, it is still just a missing person case, Newman said.


Thus, Carey said CCOP will continue working with police until the cause of death is determined. Until then, CCOP is seeking the public’s help in solving the disappearance. Carey is asking anyone who saw Netto – at a party, nightclub, or on social media – to get in touch with police. The information may be something the police don’t know.


“It would be helpful if the police were aware of that,” Carey said, of information a person might have.


Carey added that as sad as the case is, at least there is closure for the family.




Hidden Gems is updated monthly on its own page.


Money Matters is updated monthly on it's own page.








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