By M.G. Perez, Senior Reporter
The new year brings a new look and a new attitude to Club San Diego. The Hillcrest mens health club at 3955 Fourth Ave. has been an established sexual playground since it opened in 1982. As a private members-only club (daily memberships available, free memberships to active or retired military), it operates under strict city regulations and has for years been known as the non-descript mystery building.
“It’s our ‘coming out’ year,” said Club San Diego (CSD) Manager
Richard Watts. Watts is leading the club’s rebranding and renovation efforts which initially started in 2018. Last May, a fire triggered by fumes from improperly stored paint rags during the $400,000
construction renovation, shut down the operation. The accident gave club management an unexpected opportunity to regroup and reenergize the CSD rebranding. Doors opened again for business in late October and patrons have since experienced the gradual rollout of new services and cosmetic improvements now in full force.
Watts continued, “We want to be the ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’ and attract the new generation that doesn’t see sex the same way as we did back in the day.”
The new marketing campaign includes sex-positive messages promoting a more community-minded business. The official slogan describes CSD as “a health club where men can enjoy and connect with other men in a safe environment permitting nudity, fantasy and feelings to be explored. Make a friend for an hour or a lifetime.”
Health and the well-being of patrons are a priority for the management team. The newly designed lobby presents a welcoming, clean, fresh environment along with prominent signage of a zero drug and alcohol tolerance policy. Violation of that policy, stalking patrons while on property or taking photographs can lead to a lifetime ban from
In the new year, Club San Diego is also partnering with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the STI treatment clinic and specialty pharmacy with a branch conveniently located across the street at 3940 Fourth Ave. AHF specializes in PrEP, PEP, and HIV treatment. Through specific funding sources, the nonprofit pharmacy can see people regardless of the ability to pay or lack of insurance. It offers a treatment commonly known as a “morning after pill,” which could benefit members of CSD who feel they may have made unhealthy choices.
According to Joshua Kessler, AHF pharmacy specialist, “the medication you are referring to is known as PEP, which stands for post exposure prophylactics. If possibly exposed to HIV and not on PrEP, then a person would be able to get PEP, which must be taken with 72 hours of exposure. Taking PEP will block the possibility of contracting HIV.” For more information, go to ahfpharmacy.org.
Following last year’s fire, the CSD management team turned to other mens health clubs/sauna owners for support and inspiration — in particular, the Midtown Spa in Los Angeles, which heavily promotes health and social events to encourage business as it does in its other locations near San Pedro and Denver. At CSD, the weekly special events now include a Movie Night Monday, Woof Thursday (catering to the bear community with food and fun), and Fantasy Friday (for fetish and toy play). There is also a barely legal discount with a free six-month membership for patrons ages 18 to 21 years old and college students 25 years old and younger with valid student identification.
“The younger generation doesn’t want sex and play in a seedy environment. They want to socialize and meet up,” said Watts in his description of the club’s rebranding. “We want to be more community minded and develop long-term
The safe space environment now extends to the club’s
employees, too. Last year, the entire staffing was restructured in order to implement more rigorous hiring requirements. They were all encouraged to reapply under the new standards which include random drug testing and a skill set with knowledge of technology and social media. The club now has a staff of 15 full-time employees and one part-time worker. Many of them with a college degree or who are pursing higher education.
Starting this week, CSD will host a Wednesday night “GAY-mer” event from 8 p.m. to midnight led by a professional video game master with tournaments planned for the future. Other updates can be found on the growing CSD social media platforms and the new website at clubsandiego.com. The club is also making a pitch this year to have its first float ever in the San Diego Pride Parade as an attempt to change its image and come out of the closet.
“It’s about time,” quipped Watts, “When you pick up someone at the bar or need a place to ‘host’ … we are your safe place to have some fun without any worries.”