Launched on April 1, 1971 by Paul Bentley and Bob Ross, the B.A.R., as it's popularly known by the locals, was originally distributed to gay bars in the South of Market, Castro District, and Polk Street areas of San Francisco. Today, the paper is distributed throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
The B.A.R. has evolved from its early years of uneven editorial and news quality to become one of the oldest, largest, and most respected LGBT community newspapers in the United States. Its annual Gay Pride issue in June is the largest and most-read edition of the year.
In the 1980s, it became a leading source of updated developments about the AIDS crisis; in 1998, the paper made headlines around the world with its now-famous "No Obits" headline, marking the significance of HIV treatments by noting the first time since the AIDS epidemic began in 1981 that the newspaper received no death notices in a given week.
With an audited weekly readership of more than 100,000, the award-winning newspaper is well known for its editorial commentary, investigative reporting, extensive sports journalism, and arts and entertainment writing.
Founding publisher Bob Ross died in 2003. The current publisher is attorney Thomas E. Horn, and the current editor-in-chief is Cynthia Laird.
Assistant editors have included Matthew Bajko, Zak Szymanski (until 2006), and Mark Mardon (until 2006), each of whom contributed breaking news and nationally renowned articles on topics such as public health, social justice, law, race relations, transgender issues, art and music, and politics. Longtime Arts editor is Roberto Friedman. Assistant editors as of 2008 include Bajko, Jim Provenzano (who also wrote a sports column from 1996-2006), and Seth Hemmelgarn. One of the paper's most-read columnists is Leather columnist Marcus Hernandez, better known as Mister Marcus.
The B.A.R. is a founding member of the National Gay Newspaper Guild.
On March 30, 2006, The B.A.R. published a special edition to celebrate its 35th anniversary.
In 2007, reporter-editors Bajko and Szymanski were honored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association with second and third place in the organization's "Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT Media" for their collections of LGBT articles published in the BAR during 2006.