After 50 years, San Francisco’s oldest gay bar, “The Stud”, was sold to a new owner. One of the famous features of this historic bar was a series of murals painted on the exterior in June 2017 to commemorate Pride Month. These murals were popular in the community and were the backdrop for many a selfie. However, within a month of purchasing the property, the new owner, listed as City Commercial Investments, whitewashed the murals. The destruction of the murals was devastating enough to the community, but the new owner added insult to injury by whitewashing the murals during Pride Month.
Six artists have sued City Commercial Investments under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). According to the complaint, the prior owner had specifically asked City Commercial Investments to preserve the murals, and therefore the destruction of the murals was intentional.
As this lawsuit was being filed, the defendants in the 5Pointz case lost their case disputing an additional $2 million in attorney’s fees, an amount above and beyond the original $6.75 million judgment in favor of the artists. If the plaintiffs above can show that the new owner intentionally destroyed the murals, City Commercial Investments could be facing a hefty fine. Property developers would do well to learn the lessons of 5Pointz when dealing with murals on their property.