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    Community Rallies to Help Those Impacted by Castro Fire

    At least two GoFundMe pages are now up to help those who were affected by the fire that broke out at 454 and 456 Castro Street on the morning of November 16. The first to be established, by The San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance, Inc., shares that the blaze was among the Castro’s biggest residential fires in decades.

    “Starting at the back of the buildings above the beloved Q Bar and Osaka restaurant, the fire gutted several apartments before dawn Saturday morning. Seven residents have lost their homes. Neighboring homes and stores are damaged. At least one person is facing immediate health challenges and all have been through a severely traumatic event. Folks’ treasured possessions and furnishings have been destroyed. Even those things that escaped burning may be filled with toxic smoke residue and need to be replaced.”

    “The neighbors are looking at severe water damage and related issues such as mold. Q Bar and Osaka will be closed for the time being, and their employees are out of work as well. San Francisco’s housing crisis and astronomical rents only pile on the challenges for these individuals who have already faced a tragic loss.”

    “Our community needs our help at this time. While the City is doing what it can, public resources are limited and likely come with more rules and regulations than private funds. Please dig a little deeper and help make sure these folks have a buffer to help them through this holiday season.”

    A second GoFundMe has since been established by Troix Boyd. Boyd writes: “The fire in the Castro in the early morning of November 16th, 2019, destroyed my home. Basically, I lost everything and the structural fire resulted in my home being red tagged. I’m raising money to replace household items such as a bed, bedding, a dresser, clothes, work clothing, shoes, kitchen appliances, dishes, pots/pans, bath and hygiene needs, etc., and all of the things I need to create a new home, rebuild my life, and return some sense of normalcy. So I just kindly ask for your support.”

    San Francisco Bay Times columnist and longtime Sister of Perpetual Indulgence Dennis McMillan/Sister Dana Van Iquity, was among those impacted by the fire. He shares his personal account of what happened in this issue.

    Please consider contributing to the online fundraisers, attending the fundraiser at Beaux, and doing your holiday shopping this season in the Castro. As Supervisor Rafael Mandelman told the SF Chronicle, “Our neighborhood is struggling with vacant storefronts. It’s a challenge. This is another blow our neighborhood didn’t need.”


    A View from a Fire

    By Dennis McMillan–

    It was about 4 am on Saturday, November 16. Night owl insomniac that I am, I had just taken my Zolpidem sleeping pill to get ready for bed, when I noticed my white Levolor blinds were a blaring orange color. Living right next door to Castro’s QBar, I figured they were trying out a new light system.

    But when I drew up the blinds, I looked down and left to see a building completely engulfed in flames. The whole roof was on fire. The entire side was blazing. Fire shot through all the doors and windows. I opened my window and popped my head out to get a closer look, but soon backed up to avoid the scorching heat, billowing smoke, and terrible fumes.

    Watching the fire make its way up the banister leading to the outside of my little studio, I prayed like never before. In the middle of my prayers and wailing (yes, I was afraid and felt it necessary to wail), a firefighter grabbed me away from the window and ushered me downstairs to stand outside on Castro Street with the other victims. It was freezing cold that early morning. Fortunately, I was wearing sweat pants and grabbed a coat; but many were caught with only light clothing and blankets issued by the Red Cross.

    Castro Street had been closed off with over a dozen fire trucks and EMT vehicles occupying both sides of the street. Caution tape was everywhere. Streams of water swept the curbs. We residents stood freezing in the morning air—constantly requesting entrance to our homes. The Fire Chief, proudly revealing she was lesbian, kept giving me updates. She assured me, “Your cat is safe. It’s just a little water in your place.” Just a little water?

    So, after standing helpless since 4 am, we were allowed back into the building at 10:30 am where my feet squished on my carpet (like a little pond), windows had been smashed, and a hole in the left ceiling corner had been axed. Pieces of wood, big glass shards, and plaster chunks were everywhere. My TV had been thrown face-down on top of some furniture on the bed. The picture was thus destroyed—with huge cracks on the glass. A friend joked, “Makes it rather difficult to watch porn, huh?” Yes, not to mention any programming at all. And I’m a TV addict—notably a politics junkie.

    Fast forward a few days. Workers came to furiously rip up carpet (six hours of wretched noise and foul stench in my presence, with ceiling hole covered up with plastic and duct tape). So attractive. And they upgraded (!?) me to an even noisier, massive Phoenix 200 dehumidifier. Perhaps it somehow pertains to my “rising like a Phoenix from the ashes”?

    Anyway, my dear friends bought me a brand new 50-inch Smart TV—but workers broke that one too. Two dead TVs in one week: gotta be a record! So now I only have Internet. Sigh. Side note: after this, I can truly separate my many many loving, caring close friends from mere Facebook “friends.”

    In conclusion, I think I should clarify that I am NOT a victim of the fires; I am a victim of the firefighters. But that’s just me being selfish about their not being overly careful with MY stuff. So what? They have lives to save. Get over it, Dennis! Meanwhile, if you care about my fellow survivors, check out


    QBar/Osaka Sushi Fire Relief Fundraiser to Take Place on November 30

    Heklina, Tom Temprano, Juanita MORE!, Just Shannon, Shawn Vergara, and Christopher Vasquez are hosting a Castro Fire Fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, November 30, at Beaux.

    They write that since Osaka Sushi and QBar suffered from serious water, fire, and smoke damage that have forced these businesses to close for an undetermined amount of time, all of the staff at these businesses are now out of work. The impacted individuals, if possible, are relying on their other gigs to get by while the damage is accessed and the necessary repairs are made. (QBar is using its social media space to promote upcoming events featuring its popular staff, dancers, and DJs.)

    The organizers of the Beaux event write: “We will be having a HUGE unity fundraiser to show solidarity with these two businesses to raise money to support their displaced employees, and to come together to show our love for everything they have given us over the years.”

    The fundraiser at Beaux will include an afternoon of drinks, music, raffles, and, most importantly, fundraising from the community. There will be a beer bust from 4–7 pm, but the entertainment—with gogos, DJs, and drag queens—will start at 3. The raffle will feature prizes from many of the fellow queer-owned bars, restaurants, and shops in San Francisco.

    For supporting the event and/or providing raffle prizes, thanks go to the organizers, State Senator Scott Wiener, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s Office, The Detour SF/Blackbird, Jolene’s Bar San Francisco, Lookout, SF Oasis, DAD/Dudes and Disco, and many others, including Beaux.

    QBar/Osaka Sushi Fire Relief Fundraiser
    Saturday, November 30
    3 pm–7 pm
    2344 Market Street, SF

    Published on November 28, 2019