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Flaming Saddles bar becomes the latest casualty on Santa Monica Boulevard

More boarded up storefronts along Santa Monica Boulevard

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BREAKING: As the Covid-19 pandemic escalates into a prolonged financial crisis for the world, local businesses in the Los Angeles area are reeling under the burden of public health rules designed to stop its spread.

The latest major closure, Flaming Saddles (8811 Santa Monica Boulevard), falls closely on the heels of the July 5, 2020 closure of Gym Bar (8737 Santa Monica Boulevard).

Without inbound cash-flow, neither bar was able to negotiate continued occupancy of their space with their landlords. The owner of 8811 Santa Monica Boulevard is listed as Monte Overstreet, according to PropertyShark.com.

In an August 16, 2020 post on Facebook, Flaming Saddles management and owners announced that after 5 months of closure it was impossible to keep the doors open:

“Hello All,

I hope that this email finds everyone in good health and good spirits.
I am writing today to give an update on Flaming Saddles WeHo…
It has been a very long 5 months, very long indeed.

Through out these months Chris and I have chosen to stay positive. We were watching the science carefully as well as city and state regulations. We wanted to make sure it was as safe as possible before we attempted to re open our doors.

With the heaviest of hearts, We are sad to say that Flaming Saddles WeHo will not be reopening at 8811 Santa Monica Blvd.

I would like to thank you all for your hard work and dedication. We had become a force to be reckoned with in WeHo and I could not be prouder of the brand and all of you.
Covid-19 has reeked havoc globally, and with a better national strategy here in the U.S. perhaps things would of been different. With the rules as they stand today there is no way we could of fulfilled our fiscal obligations that were presented to us at this location.

We however stand proud. We did our best and rose up… spun on poles, swung on ropes , poured great drinks and danced our way to the top. No one did it better… We are proud of all of you, the best managers, bartenders, servers, barracks, security, Dj’S ,dancers and drag queens … We thank you.

Flaming Saddles will march on!!!
We are grateful and we wish you all much success in the future…

Namaste
Xx
Jacqui and Chris”

Kevin Spencer, a former Flaming Saddles bartender who organized WeHo Nights, an online fundraiser for West Hollywood nightlife employees, said Saddles was an integral part of his LA experience, “both behind the bar as an employee and as a regular guest as well.”

“There was nothing like it on the boulevard,” he said. “I’m grateful that Jacqui and Chris were able to bring their unique experience to our community and I’m very sad to hear it was the usual story of landlord greed that got in the way of their ability to weather this crisis.”

Former Flaming Saddles bartender Kevin Spencer posted a provocative question on social media about whether LA residents should consider leaving the shut-down city. (Photo courtesy of Spencer)

A patron, Heyse Aquino’s reaction summed up what many other community members said on Facebook:  ” Noooo!! ?? This has broken my heart into a million pieces. Flaming Saddles was the place to go! It was the spot to be at, I remember going in the first time and seeing the amazing dancers on the poles or swinging from one end to the other, the vibe was always positive everyone was always happy and energetic, the bartenders were always on point, and the music was the best! I’m sad and I will miss this place, there will never be another like Flaming Saddles.”

Some blamed West Hollywood for not doing enough to assist businesses and require more tolerance from landlords.  Doug Stichler wrote, “The City should be ashamed for not stepping up and helping.”

The City has urged landlords to work with businesses but the eviction moratorium it extended can not be applied to commercial leases.

Flaming Saddles, like many bars and other businesses in West Hollywood, received a Small Business Administration forgivable loan on April 30, 2020, for an amount between $175,000 and $350,000 dollars.  The money allowed the bar to cover operations and employee payroll expenses.

But without the ability to operate, except for a brief period of time in June, many businesses like Flaming Saddles that have no additional revenue streams are in dire jeopardy.

Bars that serve food have been able to successfully transform their businesses and survive by operating as sidewalk restaurant.

Other notable businesses that received Small Business Administration loans under the Covid-19 emergency program include Grindr and The Abbey, which each accessed more than $1,000,000 to cover their operations expenses and employee salaries through the end of August.

Rocco’s accessed more than $150,000 in SBA covid relief funding.

Flaming Saddles in NYC, located at 793 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, remains in operation.

 

 

 

 

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Bars & Parties

Mama G plans wild Halloween celebration

Join Ariana Grande’s mom for music, costume contests, and more

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By Susan Hornik | HOLLYWOOD – Want to attend an exciting, unique party for Halloween hosted by Ariana and Frankie Grande’s mom? Check out Diamond Dog Entertainment’s inaugural “Mama G’S Halloween Happenings 2021,” which takes over The Bourbon Room Oct. 28-31. 

“I adore Halloween and have been known on the East Coast for hosting grand and wild Halloween parties,” enthused Joan Grande in an exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “After last year’s pandemic and cancellation of almost every holiday, we were all in desperate need for a Mama G Halloween event!”

The soiree is jam packed with intrigue, and will feature the world premiere of “Horror Camp: A Musical Massacre,” an abundance of live music and costume contests. Halloween-themed food and drinks will also be available for purchase.

“‘Horror Camp,’ is a 80’s and 90’s jukebox musical that spoofs the horror movies of the past,” she noted. “This year we are joined by the greatest cast of people known from Broadway and television: Marissa Jaret Winokur, Frankie Grande, Constantine Maroulis, Emma Hunton, YouTube’s Queen of Reactions, Maya Tomlin, and many other surprise veterans of song, stage, and TV.”

Mama G Grande thinks of Halloween as an “incredibly special” holiday.

“I love the rush and thrill of the unexpected scare, the music associated with Halloween, the strong tones, chords and orchestrations used to create that underlying feeling of fear and fright … sometimes you hear a melody and your hair stands on end, that is wonderfully fun for me,” she explained. I also love the feeling of being free to dress up in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t normally, whether it’s using a lot of makeup, putting on wigs and being in different characters.”

“Following the Musical, the party, which is hosted by Drag Queens greats Shangela and Eureka, continues, with performances as well as their judging our costume parties, with prizes totaling $1,500 each night,” she added.

“I am thrilled to work with Mama G and bring some HalleBOO to Hollywood!” Shangela told the Blade. “Anytime a Grande is involved, whether it’s a family party or a full-out function, I know it’s sure to be a good time!” 

To win the cash prizes, plan on wearing a costume that will stand out.

“Each night is themed — with every costume contest, the main contributing factor for me is EFFORT…and SMART!  I love a well thought out, complete costume…you know, no (grave) stone unturned!” she quipped.

Mama G’s son, Frankie Grande, a fan favorite during his time on CBS’ “Big Brother,” is thrilled that his mom has been working so hard on this event.

“I am so proud of my mom for all that she has achieved in her life as a mother and businesswoman and now she has this overwhelming desire to give back through the arts. I’m so honored to be her partner in Diamond Dog Entertainment. So come party with us this Halloween — we’ll have a gay old time!”

Another highlight of the event: a special midnight screening of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” 

“I loved Rocky Horror from a very early age, because of my mother playing it for me as a child and seeing the Broadway show,” said Frankie. “The first time I dressed up as a character from the show was when I was cast as Frank N Furter in the LA production of ‘Rocky Horror.’  And of course ever since then, he is one of my favorite characters to dress up as.”

Even though they have been busy planning the event, Frankie and Mama G have found time to watch television, seeing Ariana make her debut as a judge on NBC’s The Voice.”

“I love everything about Ariana being on ‘The Voice!’ She is a brilliant musician, both technically and naturally gifted, with a heart bigger than the universe, which she doesn’t hesitate to share. I think that is why she is such a gift to the show.”

If you are headed to New York for Halloween, Mama G has activities for you there as well.

“We are producers for a pair of plays on Broadway. ‘Is This A Room,’ which just opened last week to rave reviews including The New York Times’ Critics Pick, and ‘Dana H,’ which opens this weekend. These two plays are about two extraordinary women and their harrowing experiences told in their very own words. I highly recommend that you see these shows when you are in New York City, they are glorious.” Tickets, which start at $39, and VIP packages are now available for purchase online here.

All guests must show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR COVID test within 48 hours. Masks will also be required when guests are not eating or drinking.

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Bars & Parties

Lesbian Bar Project to the rescue

Founders complete second year fundraising campaign to save businesses

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Directors Erica Rose and Elina Street created a documentary about the history and significance of lesbian bars. (Photos courtesy Lesbian Bar Project)

NEW YORK – The Lesbian Bar Project, a New York-based group founded by lesbian filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street, raised $117,000 last year to help the nation’s lesbian bars stay in business during the height of the COVID pandemic.

Among the bars receiving financial assistance from the project was San Diego’s Gossip Grill and D.C.’s A League of Her Own. Owner Dave Perruzza said he and his staff were grateful to receive a $7,000 check from the Lesbian Bar Project early this year when the bar was closed under the city’s COVID shutdown order. There are no identified lesbian bars in Los Angeles that are part of the project.

The two women say their 2021 fundraising campaign for the project will raise well over $100,000 as part of their continuing effort to support the nation’s remaining 21 lesbian bars.

“Like a lot of things during COVID, we took a lot for granted,” Street told the Blade in describing how she and Rose reacted when their city’s three remaining lesbian bars – two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn – shut down like most other bars and restaurants during the peak of the COVID public health restrictions in 2020.

“Erica and I felt very connected to the bars there,” Street said. “And we started these discussions of, we miss our cherished spaces. And now they’re closed. Where do we go?”

With their filmmaking skills as a backdrop, and with the knowledge that the already diminishing number of lesbian bars across the country were struggling to survive under COVID, the two started a fundraising campaign for those bars called the Lesbian Bar Project. Among other things, they produced a video Public Service Announcement with archival scenes of lesbian bars and the women who patronized them.

With financial support from the Jagermeister liquor company’s Save the Night campaign, which was launched to provide financial support for nightlife businesses such as bars and restaurants, Rose and Street arranged for the production of a separate 20-minute documentary film about the role lesbian bars play in the lives of those who patronize them. Rose and Street are listed as the film’s directors.

Among those serving as executive producer and appearing in the documentary is Lea DeLaria, the lesbian comedian, actress and internationally acclaimed star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”

 Also appearing in the documentary is Jo McDaniel, longtime D.C. lesbian activist and bartender and manager at several D.C. gay bars who helped Perruzza open that bar as the city’s first full-time lesbian bar since the closing of the famed D.C. lesbian bar Phase One nearly a decade ago.

McDaniel says she left her job as A League of Her Own’s manager last year to undertake, along with her life partner Rachel Pike, the start of a new D.C. LGBTQ welcoming bar called As You Are, which began operating online. McDaniel says she and Pike are actively looking for a storefront building in which to open As You Are as an in-person café and bar with a dance floor that will be welcoming to lesbians and the LGBTQ community in general.

The documentary, which helped generate support for the project’s fundraising efforts, can be viewed on the group’s website free of charge at lesbianbarproject.com.

Earlier this month, the national dating app called Hinge announced it was entering into a partnership with the Lesbian Bar Project and would make an initial donation in August of $50,000 to help the project support lesbian bars in need of financial aid.

The announcement said Hinge would educate all its U.S. users about the “importance of LGBTQIA+ establishments” and encourage its LGBTQ members to visit one of the bars for a date.

“The bars that comprise the Lesbian Bar Project are not only a safe space but an essential part of LGBTQIA+ culture,” said Justin McLeod, founder and CEO of Hinge. “Our hope is that this support will help these sacred spaces to stay open through this summer and beyond,” he said in the company’s statement.

The Lesbian Bar Project website provides a list of the 21 lesbian bars that the project has supported. In a notice on the website, Rose and Street note that their initial fundraising campaign for 2021 has been completed, and a financial statement with information on how much has been raised will be released around the time of Labor Day weekend.

Rose told the Blade that until she and Street decide the project’s next plan of action, they are calling on people to donate directly to one or more of the 21 lesbian bars listed on the website.

However, a notice on the website says three of the bars – Cubbyhole of New York City; Sue Ellen’s of Dallas; and Wildside West of San Francisco, “have graciously decided to opt out” of the 2021 pool of funds raised to allow for more contributions to the other bars in greater need.

“In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 200 Lesbian Bars across the country,” a statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website says. “These bars are disappearing at a staggering rate, and we cannot afford to lose more of these vital establishments to the fallout of COVID-19,” the statement says.

Rose and Street said the decline in the number of lesbian bars, which began long before the onset of the COVID pandemic, is due to a number of factors, including the overall success of the LGBTQ rights movement. The two said nondiscrimination protections in state and local laws and the landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, opened the way for lesbians and LGBTQ people in general to feel comfortable patronizing bars that were not specifically catering to lesbians.

They said that like its impact on gay bars in general, the rise of the Internet and online meet-up sites has also had the effect of enabling lesbians to meet each other outside of bars and other “brick and mortar” establishments. 

“So, it’s like all of these factors combined with the pandemic are why many of these places are disappearing,” Rose said. “And that’s why Elina and I jumped into action. Our goal is always to raise awareness. The money raised is definitely a bonus,” she said. “We wanted to raise awareness and tell the stories of these bars. That’s going to make sure we remain indelible in our culture and ensuring our survival.”

Rose was referring to one of the themes of her and Street’s 20-minute documentary – that the in-person interaction offered by lesbian bars and LGBTQ bars in general provides, among other things, an important part of LGBTQ culture and the diversity of LGBTQ people that online and virtual venues cannot provide.

“We believe what makes a bar uniquely Lesbian is its prioritization of creating space for people of marginalized genders; including women, non-binary folks, and trans men,” according to the statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website. “As these spaces aim to be inclusive of all individuals across the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, the label Lesbian belongs to all people who feel that it empowers them,” the statement says.

“Without space, we lose power, validity, communal safety and access to intergenerational dialogue,” the statement adds. “With the support of our community, we can make sure these bars receive not only the financial assistance they need but the reference they deserve. When our history isn’t protected, we must protect it ourselves.”

Following is a list of the 21 remaining lesbian bars in the United States released by the Lesbian Bar Project: 

A League of Her Own — Washington, D.C.

Alibi’s — Oklahoma City, Okla.

Babes of Carytown — Richmond, Va.

Blush & Blu — Denver

Boycott Bar — Phoenix

Cubbyhole — New York City 

Frankie’s — Oklahoma City, Okla.

Ginger’s — Brooklyn, N.Y.

Gossip Grill — San Diego, Calif.

Henrietta Hudson — New York City

Herz — Mobile, Ala.

My Sister’s Room MSR — Atlanta

Pearl Bar — Houston

Slammers — Columbus, Ohio

Sue Ellen’s — Dallas

The Backdoor — Bloomington, Ind.

The Lipstick Lounge — Nashville, Tenn.

Walker’s Pint — Milwaukee, Wisc.

Wildrose — Seattle

Wildside West — San Francisco

Yellow Brick Road Pub — Tulsa, Okla.

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Arts & Entertainment

West Hollywood’s ‘Out On Robertson’ official launch

The Robertson program is having its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saturday, May 1, 2020, at 7 p.m.

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Soft launch of OUT on Robertson, April 17, 2021 (Screenshot via KCBS LA)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath, Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister, and city council members John D’Amico, John M. Erickson, and Sepi Shyne are set to celebrate the official launch and ribbon cutting of WeHo’s OUT on Robertson program May 1.

Because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local businesses, especially restaurants, in August 2020, the City began its Temporary Outdoor Expansion Permit program, known as OUT Zones, by offering streamlined approval for businesses to use sidewalks, on-street parking spaces, and private parking lots as areas to expand operations.

Starting Saturday, April 17, the City expanded that program with a ‘soft launch’ of OUT on Robertson, a pilot program that closes N. Robertson Boulevard south of Santa Monica Boulevard and north of Melrose Avenue to vehicular traffic each Saturday and Sunday, between 6 p.m. on Saturday and late-night on Sunday, in order to transform the restaurant/retail area into a pedestrian zone with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Closing this highly trafficked and bustling stretch of Robertson will provide a pedestrian-safe space that allows for appropriate social distancing as the Public Health Department eases capacity restrictions while still monitoring the spread of the virus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John M. Erickson. “COVID is not over and we all must remain vigilant about protecting our own health, and the health of others. I’m looking forward to safely seeing you — at a distance and with your most fabulous masks on — OUT on Robertson!”

The Robertson program is having its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Saturday, May 1, 2020, at 7 p.m. 

OUT on Robertson will embrace, on weekends, what compact OUT Zones throughout the City have been offering for months: a place to enjoy sunny days and balmy nights while maintaining social distance, aligning with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s health and safety protocols, and supporting community businesses.

People exploring West Hollywood’s OUT on Robertson are reminded that the City of West Hollywood has a mandatory face-covering requirement and people are urged to be mindful of maintaining six feet of social distancing for dining, shopping, and personal care under the sun and stars

Plentiful parking is available in the five-story West Hollywood Park structure located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard, adjacent to the West Hollywood Library. Additional parking is also available at 650 N. La Peer Drive. For those using rideshare services, the City has established Drop Zones at the corner of Melrose Avenue and N. Robertson Boulevard.

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