HAYWARD — It certainly was not Joeanne Pepperell's intention to banish local gay barflies when she took over Club Rumor late last year.

But as she changed the Main Street venue's vibe and renamed it the Funky Monkey, many gay male regulars fled and a new crowd settled in.

"I still have some of Rumor's clientele, but not as much as I would have liked to have kept," Pepperell said. "A lot of people don't like change."

What's gone: go-go boys and drag queen bingo. What's in: darts, pool leagues and rock'n' roll karaoke.

Gradually over the past 15 years or so, the formerly gay-oriented downtown Hayward bar scene has been getting straighter. Or, as some bar owners say, it has become harder to distinguish a gay-specific bar from one that welcomes everyone.

"I have everything from police officers to straight people, gaypeople, construction workers," Pepperell said of her revamped bar. "It's mixed, it's nice, it's different. I think it's the way it should be."

Pepperell, a 38-year-old Hayward native, is a veteran of the local bar scene and can remember the days when downtown was considered a gay mecca.

Her uncle, Roy Tamez, took over the Spoiled Brat, a popular gay nightclub on Mission Boulevard, after its owners relocated to Palm Springs in 1993.

When he opened Uncle Roy's Saloon, Tamez told a reporter that everyone was welcome, but that he was putting his emphasis on football nights, Country Western dancing and darts.

"Uncle Roy may be happy, but he's not gay," Tamez declared in December 1993.


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In turn, gays left the club, jocks and police officers moved in and it became better known as a "cop bar" until Tamez stopped working there about six years ago. Though under different management, the bar still sports his name.

When the Spoiled Brat closed, local customers still had about a half-dozen other downtown gay bars to frequent.

Pepperell, who was formerly Uncle Roy's head bartender, said she is not sure where people are going now.

"What I hear is a lot of the gay clientele is going to (San Francisco). I don't know why. It's awfully far to go," Pepperell said.

Others have merely migrated across the street to the Turf Club, the only gay bar left downtown.

"Business has picked up over here," said David Munoz, a Turf Club bartender for 10 years.

No one has easy answers to why Hayward's once-thriving gay bar scene slowly dropped off into oblivion. The owners who sold Club Rumor to Pepperell were unable to be located for comment.

Larry Gray, the Turf Club's longtime owner, has said Hayward's gay bar scene was founded by closeted gay sailors from Alameda Naval Base looking for a safe place to meet other men. According to his account, the scene grew as the gay rights movement emerged in the 1970s, but bar-hoppers also faced confrontations with police.

Eventually, Hayward's suburban, homelier version of San Francisco's Castro District began to wane. Some blamed the AIDS crisis, others said the increasingly wider acceptance of the gay and lesbian community, especially in the Bay Area, made such venues less necessary.

Economics also might have played a part, said Patricia Kevena Fili, director of the Lighthouse Community Center, a Hayward nonprofit that serves the area's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"I do think it's part of the hardship of running a small business in this economy," Fili said. "The same things have happened in Oakland."

Munoz, the Turf bartender, believes it is bars in general — not just gay bars — that have lost some of their luster over the years.

"People are staying home on their computers now," Munoz said. "You get home. You say, 'I'm just going to check my

e-mail.' You look at the clock and it's 1:30 a.m."

Matt O'Brien can be reached at (510) 293-2473 or mattobrien@dailyreviewonline.com.