As I set my navigation to figure out the best route to reach the Hot Tubs for my rendezvous, the map showed an ominous message: “Permanently closed.” It can’t be! But sure enough, when I arrived there was a pair of laser-printed signs on the door notifying that after 39 years, the Hot Tubs on Van Ness were out of business.
39 years ago would be 1979, and the Hot Tubs embodied the ethos of that era, or at least what I imagine that ethos to be. The first time I’d heard about such a thing was from a female friend of mine who used to frequent a hot tub place over in Berkeley whenever she had a no-strings hook-up. “Wait, so they have rooms with hot tubs you can rent by the hour? There’s really such a thing?” From my sheltered suburban upbringing, I couldn’t imagine such a place could exist. Why bother with getting a hotel room for the night when you could just cut to the chase and get a private tub room for just as long as you needed to do the deed?
Fast forward a few years, and I discovered the Hot Tubs on Van Ness in San Francisco. It was a hookup who suggested we meet there, and he walked me through all the steps. Rent the room, get the towels, do the deed, done. So easy! I wondered what took me so long to find this place.
But in fairness, the setup was pretty nice. Not only did each private room have a hot tub, but also a shower, sauna, and mattress. All around a nice offering, and all clean and well maintained. Everything needed for a good sexy time, with minimal hassle.
I had some great times there over the years, and it was always good to know it was there as an option for a rendezvous.
The sign on the door said that they were not able to renew their lease. Sadly, this seems to be increasingly common in San Francisco, and in a way it’s hard to imagine it managed to hold on as long as it did. Leases are not renewed, and established icons and institutions disappear as the economic boom transforms the city. It’s part of the cycle of a place, and I’d guess every generation bemoans the ever-changing world and what was. But all the same, I’m sad to see one more piece of Tales of the City San Francisco go away.