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Back in , under Feinstein's leadership, the City and County of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against all the local operators of bathhouses, calling them a public health nuisance, and demanding they have no locking booths or rooms. The legal move came just as safe-sex practices were being found to be effective in the prevention of HIV transmission, but during a moment when health officials repeatedly were hearing from the sick and dying in local AIDS wards that they were frequenters of the city's many bathhouses. At one point in the late s, San Francisco was home to between 20 and 30 bathhouses, sex clubs that served as additional nightlife options — often the last stop in gay men's travels around the city on nights and weekends, and often featuring DJs and entertainment of their own. There were bathhouses for punk rock fans, disco fans, leather daddies, and hippies, and this entire segment of gay culture was all but wiped away. And local historian Gayle Rubin credits the closure of the baths as one of the nails in the coffin of a flourishing leather culture here. As SFist has noted in the past , what became known as The Bathhouse Crisis in was met with plenty of pushback from gay men at the time who didn't want to see their sexual liberation curtailed so soon after they'd achieved it.
On March 14, , the Sutro Baths were opened to the public as the world's largest indoor swimming pool establishment. The baths were built on the western side of San Francisco by wealthy entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco — Adolph Sutro. The structure was situated in a small beach inlet below the Cliff House , also owned by Adolph Sutro at the time.
San Francisco was once a thriving haven for sexual deviants, didn't you know? It still is, but in a somewhat more tame way than in the s heyday of leather bars, hanky codes , glory holes, and bathhouses. SoMa was home to some of the nation's biggest and baddest bathhouses up until , all of them places where men could find casual, anonymous sex, either in public or private rooms for a small rental fee , and typically with disco playing over the sound system. Then what became known as The Bathhouse Crisis began, during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and all of them were forcibly shut down by the health department within a few years.