The El Rio bar on Mission Street in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of El Rio)

A popular bar in San Francisco has been acquired through the city’s Small Sites Program, ensuring that the space and the apartments located above it will stay permanently affordable.

Through the city-funded program, the Mission Economic Development Agency was able to acquire 3156-3158 Mission St., which houses El Rio bar, a community meeting space and eight apartment units.

The El Rio bar and patio has been a nightlife staple for the city’s LGBTQ and Latino communities, while the apartments on top of El Rio serve low- to moderate-income families.

“As we work to build more housing, we also have to use programs like Small Sites to keep tenants stable in their neighborhoods,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

“The fact that this acquisition also comes with the preservation of El Rio, which is an incredible part of our City’s LGBTQ and Latino nightlife, makes it even more special. We know the challenges that many bars and restaurants face to stay open, but it is places like El Rio that draw people together and make our communities and our City unique. I’m proud that we have found a solution to support El Rio, as well as the tenants who live in the building.”

The acquisition was financed with an $8.6 million loan provided by the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund.

“We don’t need more evictions, and the Small Sites acquisition program is an incredibly effective way of keeping people in their homes,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

“Ensuring that El Rio can continue to exist is a big win for the LGBTQ and Latino communities and for our city’s cultural heart. Today’s move is a big win for San Francisco,” he said.

“Bars and clubs like El Rio are sacred spaces for queer people,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “They’re places where we come together with chosen family, raise funds for important organizations and create a stronger and more vibrant LGBTQ community.”

Part of the acquisition and preservation includes a rehabilitation plan that could see some $800,000 in repairs like seismic retrofitting, electrical updates and exterior renovations.

“El Rio would like to thank MEDA, their staff and board for their willingness to invest in our business and buildings as one of their commercial spaces serving the community,” said El Rio’s owner, Dawn Huston.

“We are humbled and immensely grateful for this opportunity.”