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Gay Bars Are Back

 July 15, 2021 at 2:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, July 15th >>>> Gay bars reopening amid San Diego’s pride week More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### Covid-19 cases are increasing in San Diego county, and public health officials say they’re worried about vaccine hesitancy. David Mets with F-M-3 research recently conducted a survey of San Degians’ views of the vaccine. He says one in five have no intention of ever getting vaccinated. “They lack confidence in the safety of the vaccine. They’re worried about side effects. They’re worried about the vaccine developments being rushed and they’re worried about what long term impact might be.” ########## San Diego City Officials announced a new set of law enforcement strategies for curbing violent crime, and unregistered “ghost guns” on wednesday. According to police chief David Nisleit, the new strategies include assigning more personnel to violent crime teams, gathering more information from suspected problem areas, working with outside agencies, and using more investigative techniques for monitoring to locate and arrest wanted suspects. ######## Governor Gavin Newsom touted the state’s covid-19 rental relief program on Wednesday. He says it’s the largest in the nation, and will pay baclk 100% of what people owe, back to April of last year. Lourdes [LOIR-des] Castro Ramirez is California’s Secretary of Business, Consumer Services and Housing. “Since the signing of AB 832 we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of families that are applying for the state’s rental assistance program. We have also seen the doubling of the total rental assistance that is going out.” Applications for the program are online at housing-is-key-dot-com. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. The San Diego Pride celebration is upon us this weekend, and Gay bars are back as California lifts covid-19 restrictions. KPBS’ Katy Stegall (STEE-gull) says these longstanding safe havens of the LGBTQ community are re-emerging after a year in which many feared they would go under. It was mid-June -- two days after California lifted it’s COVID restrictions and the crowd at The Rail was ready to celebrate after a long 16 months. It's been a hard road back. San Diego’s oldest gay bar has survived attacks from law enforcement, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and most recently, the COVID-19 lockdowns. The low point for some business owners came when 2020’s Pride was canceled. That’s when the Rail’s owner, Gayle Santillan, thought the run might be over. Gayle Santillan The Rail owner “That to me was like the harder blow— not just COVID, it was losing Pride. And losing Pride to anyone in this neighborhood business-wise is huge. We bank on that entire week. It’s just bigger than most people can imagine. ” Santillan made the best of the downtime. While The Rail was closed she did some minor repairs, and made an effort to take care of the staff. She made them meals each day until they were on unemployment. Santillan also received a PPP loan, and her landlords helped her work out a plan to stay open. But she says there were moments when she considered closing for good. Gayle Santillan The Rail owner I would come in, walk around the bar and go ‘oh god, I can’t do this and just walk out the door in tears. Because I still didn’t know, none of us knew. But it’s over, we’re past it. Everyone’s healthy. ” “Although it is a hard blow to us and the entire MA4 family, it is nothing compared to the huge number of people that have lost their lives, health or someone that they love in this pandemic. We will never forget the amazing memories we all made together, and we hope that you will not forget us.” Not all gay bars made it through last year’s guantlet. The owners of Martinis Above Fourth, a lounge known for its specialty drinks and live performances, announced in October they were declaring bankruptcy. But overall, San Diego's LGBTQ establishments have shown remarkable resilience. Paul Detwiler produced the documentary "San Diego's Gay Bar History." He says that may be because LGBTQ folks depend on the bar scene for a lot more than just drinking. Paul Detwiler 9:49 “Gay bars are culturally different than straight bars because they’re sanctuaries, safe havens, for people that have typically experienced a lot of prejudice and discrimination growing up which is something that the straight population hasn’t experienced being the majority demographic. ” Most importantly, they’ve served as the hubs of the gay rights movement dating back to the 1960s. Protests, awareness campaigns and even San Diego’s first Pride were conceived in the dark and dusty corners of these clubs. Paul Detwiler Documentary Producer: San Diego’s Gay Bar History “Before different levels of government stepped up to help with HIV/AIDS and stuff, the community did it themselves. So that’s the reason an older generation of LGBT people really have that fond spot in their heart for bars.” But while LGBTQ people today have been able to emerge from the shadows in ways that might have been inconceivable a generation ago, gay bars are still essential for the community. Allen Torres, who’s come to The Rail for roughly six years, says they remain a big part of his comfort zone. Allen Torres The Rail customer I feel more comfortable with myself, with my partner. For lack of a better word, I mean it’s home, you know? We can’t be the same in a straight bar. It’s like comparing going here to somewhere in downtown. Going to Latin night at The Rail in Hillcrest is not the same as going to Onyx downstairs for another Latin night, which I like. But it’s not the same as coming here. Torres and many others are excited about Pride 2021, which is happening this week. Organizers have put together a full slate of events that should keep gay bars packed throughout the weekend. Katy Stegall, KPBS News. ########## Construction of the Aztec Stadium in Million Valley hit a major milestone on wednesday. KPBS John Carroll was there for the “topping-out” ceremony. Under a hot July sun, work moved ahead on Aztec Stadium in Mission Valley Wednesday afternoon… While a big ceremony played out on what will be known as Bashor Field. San Diego State President Adela De La Torre... “What an amazing accomplishment we have here!” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria getting in some civic boosterism… “This stadium project and the entire Mission Valley expansion of SDSU’s campus… that’s big, it’s bold, it’s exciting, it’s the kind of stuff that the 8th largest city in the country should be doing.” After the speeches… the big event. The raising of a steel beam… laden with signatures from everybody who wanted to sign… an American flag and a tree on top… the tree an ancient symbol of good luck in construction. San Diego State’s school song played as the beam rose… We’ll speed things up so you can see its entire journey to the top! CG: John Carroll/KPBS News “Looking around this unfinished stadium, one could be forgiven for being skeptical that it’s going to be open and ready by September 3rd of next year, but San Diego State President Adela De La Torre isn’t only confident of that, she’s sure of it.” CG: Adela De La Torre/SDSU President “I’m willing to bet on it, that’s how much I’m willing to say I am confident…. Everything has happened, the stars aligned.” With all the excitement about the new stadium, it’s easy to forget there’s much more to this project… The site will also be home to a new river park, a research and innovation district, 4,000 new homes… and thousands of SDSU students, which leads to a pretty obvious question… traffic in Mission Valley is already horrible, so how will the valley’s strained transportation network handle all those extra people? CG: Todd Gloria/San Diego Mayor “We don’t want a bunch of housing with a lot of degradation to our quality of life. The way you prevent that is with thoughtful infrastructure investment. The regional transportation plan I hope we’ll adopt this year will be exactly that.” September 3rd, 2022… that’s the date the stadium is set to open… the Aztec football team will take on the University of Arizona… the game is already sold out… JC, KPBS News. ######## Low-income San Diegans are missing out on millions of dollars in cash assistance from the state of California. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more on the results of a study released on (WEDNESDAY). AB: The report from the Berkeley-based California Policy Lab analyzed data from CalFresh, the state's food stamps program. Many CalFresh recipients make so little money, they're not required to file a tax return. But you need a tax return to receive the California earned income tax credit, which gives cash assistance to the state's poorest residents. That aid can go a long way toward helping people out of poverty. MATT UNRATH CALIFORNIA POLICY LAB RESEARCH FELLOW "But of course the concern, at least in the short term, is that programs like the CalEITC or the Golden State stimulus or this newly expanded child tax credit — the households who are most vulnerable, who have the lowest incomes, are most at risk of not receiving those programs. AB: The report found San Diego County's poorest residents missed out on 5.5 million dollars in unclaimed tax credits in 2017, the most recent year with available data. It recommends California expand free tax filing assistance to ensure everyone who's entitled to the tax credit receives it. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. ########## Coming up.... Despite facing yet another drought emergency, there’s still no state mandated water restrictions. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break. California is in the midst of another drought emergency. But there are still no mandated statewide water restrictions, similar to those deployed during the last multi-year drought. And the public response to that decision varies depending on where you live. KQED’s Ezra David Romero explains. And that was KQED’s Ezra David Romero That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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With San Diego Pride Week upon us, these cultural hubs have re-opened and are again providing safe havens for many in the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, One of California's hallmark anti-poverty programs is failing to reach hundreds of thousands of low-income residents, according to a report by the California Policy Lab. And, despite another being in another drought emergency, we haven’t seen state-mandated water restrictions.