How Los Angeles gay bars are coming back under post-pandemic restrictions – The Hollywood Reporter
After 15 months of pandemic restrictions that kept Los Angeles gay bars partially or completely closed, nightlife owners like The Abbey’s founder and CEO David Cooley are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. California is slated to reopen fully on June 15, allowing nightlife to return just in time for Pride Month (although the massive West Hollywood Pride Parade is canceled for 2021, for the second year in a row).
“For the pride of this year, there are no parades, there are no festivals in West Hollywood, but we will make sure that the abbey is really ready and decorated for the pride,” said Cooley, who recently oversaw the iconic bar’s 30th anniversary celebration, which included a visit from Lady Gaga. “It’s gonna be the roaring twenties, people are ready to get up and dance, and that was proven when Gaga came along. I couldn’t tell people to sit down.”
“It’s almost like burning your bra,” he adds of the mask warrants lifted on the horizon. “People want to burn off their masks and hear our DJs and start dancing and watching our go-go girls and go-go guys. They want to party.
However, when guests return to West Hollywood this Pride Month, it will be very different from previous years. Flaming Saddles, Gold Coast, Rage, and Gym Bar have all fallen victim to the pandemic (along with Studio City’s Oil Can Harry’s), leaving WeHo’s Santa Monica Boulevard gang without some of their iconic clubs. This is in addition to the fact that LA has not had a county-wide lesbian bar since the Oxwood Inn in Van Nuys closed in 2017. But, as the threat of COVID-19 diminishes, several of those bars have closed. have announced their intention to reopen in new spaces, and where ‘before it was a’ For Rent ‘sign, a’ For Rent ‘sign, a’ For Rent ‘sign, now you can’t find anything, they’re all taken, ”says Cooley. “There are some exciting new bars going to open. “
Singer-producer Lance Bass, co-owner of popular West Hollywood Italian bar and restaurant Rocco’s, is among those planning new venues, taking over the old Rage space for what is billed as America’s largest gay nightclub. .
“It was really devastating to see what happened to WeHo during the pandemic. So many of my favorite places had to close. For their customers, these places weren’t just bars, they were safe places for so many members. LGBTQ +. It scared me to think these venues would be replaced with mainstream venues that weren’t specifically for our community, “Bass said, promising his next spot” will bring major entertainment back to West Hollywood, with an epic dance floor ”.
The Silver Lake Akbar is a nightlife favorite that was brought back from the brink during the pandemic, after a GoFundMe launched in December raised more than $ 200,000 to help it stay afloat. Since then, the bar has started its outdoor service with Akbar Al Fresco and has events throughout the month of June, including a pride celebration on June 13.
“You can zoom in and have a cocktail for the rest of your life now that we all know how it works, but nothing can replace face-to-face,” says Akbar co-owner Scott Craig. “Especially when you are part of a category of citizens who are slightly marginalized and, especially in some other states, really horribly treated.”
And while many bars have been able to reopen to some extent in recent weeks, occupying parking lots and sidewalks, downtown LA nightlife has struggled to pivot due to limited outdoor options. Precinct, one of the most popular DTLA clubs, will reopen for the first time since the pandemic began on June 17, after months of survival thanks to community fundraising.
“There was a lot of calm here during the shutdown,” says co-owner Brian McIntire, while managing director James Eason adds, “I’m looking at people similar to WeHo, and they’ve worked very closely with the city, which was great for them, but it was difficult to watch. I just wish we were seen as a valuable asset. Eason says the bar has received little help closing streets and sidewalks for outdoor tables, as has happened in other areas of the city. The city center has also witnessed an explosion of underground parties, which now compete with the return of bars.
“A lot of us have held on as hard as we can, and I believe we’ll all be back, and these places need everyone’s support,” McIntire said. “I hope that the other places people have been to before all this are not forgotten and that people are starting to return as well.”
And after the traumatic events of the past year, the importance of unrestricted pride is not lost. According to Eason, “June is going to be both things for a lot of us. It’s like reconnecting with our gay family and celebrating pride. I think it means more to everyone this year.
This story first appeared in the June 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.