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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

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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Bars & Parties

33 Taps Owner Ryan Floyd has Big Plans

33 Taps will now be a part of the official Silverlake gay bar crawl

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Courtesy of Ryan Floyd

WEST HOLLYWOOD Ryan Floyd signed the contract for his first restaurant after working for 10 years in LA as a  finance guy. He said he hit the decade mark and realized, “I want to do something on my own.” He liked the industry, and knew the business side after working as CFO for a successful restaurant development and management firm. Now, after more than a year in lockdown, he’s got big things planned for his spot 33 Taps, and his next venture, Stache in West Hollywood.

In 2016, Floyd bought a storied beer bar and country diner once known as The Crest on Sunset, making him the third consecutive gay owner of the location. The Crest on Sunset had been running since the late-1980s, with a loyal local clientele – most of the staff was gay, most of the customers were gay. “A friend brought it to me and I thought, this could be a good step for me,” Floyd explained, “I bought the assets and license and rebranded it as 33 Taps.” 

33 Taps formally opened in September 2016, and will celebrate its five-year anniversary in the fall. “The first year was really stressful,” Floyd remembers, “we were under capitalized. I lost money for the first six, seven months. It was scary.” The former investment banker had sunk all his own cash into the business, and it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that 33 Taps began to find its footing, and its niche. 

Floyd credits his team for the longevity of the spot, and for helping keep the business open during its first year and all the years that followed. Many of the employees had even been at that location before the sale – the general manager at 33 Taps, Peaches, has been working at the address for more than 30 years.

Before the pandemic hit, business was good. “Seventy-five percent of our patrons are local,” Floyd said proudly. “We’ve really established ourselves as a place where people love to watch LA sports — the Dodgers, the Lakers, the Rams. And we also have a huge Drag Race following.” The bar finally returned to its weekly Drag Race viewing parties just in time for the grand finale episode last Friday. According to Floyd, more than a third of the clientele is LGBTQ. 

As Los Angeles slowly begins to reopen, and businesses and bars can welcome back customers, 33 Taps is greeting the post-COVID world with some new changes. “During the pandemic I had entered the liquor license lottery.” For businesses hoping for a budget break, the State of California holds a yearly liquor license lottery in which restaurants and bars can try their luck at a discounted license. “The state will issue however many licenses they think the market should absorb. You can buy those licenses for $15,000, which is a full liquor license — a type 47. Whereas on the open market, prices go from $100,000-$120,000.” It was his fourth year entering the lottery, and his first time winning. It took the state months to process the license, but it finally issued 3725 Sunset Blvd. its first-ever liquor license. It’ll be the first time in 40 years that the location will have a full bar.

A numbers man, Floyd explained an added benefit of a liquor license kicking in now. “Beer and spirits go through cycles. Beer had a very long, 10-year run. In 2005, there were 300 breweries in the United States, and now there’s over 5,000.” Floyd recites these statistics with a sportscaster’s excitement, “beer had this huge run, but now spirits have taken the lead again.” With the city’s reopening looking more and more optimistic, and more and more people wanting to celebrate big after a year in their living rooms – the new liquor license could not be better timed. “We want to program our Friday and Saturday nights. We’ve never been open beyond 11 o’clock, now we can stay open until 1 a.m. and actually have a bar crowd.” He’s lining up a slew of parties, bringing some much needed queer nightlife programming to the Silverlake scene. 

33 Taps will now be a part of the official Silverlake gay bar crawl, for all those on their way to dance at Akbar or a party at The Eagle. It rounds out the trio, offering its own flare – a modern neighborhood restaurant and sports bar. 

Each spot brings something different to the table. Akbar is beloved for its brand of queer punk quirk; the also beloved Eagle offers its loyal leather-clad following the gritty gay bar of years past. 33 Taps is the grad-school jock of the group, a lovable charm and an always here for a good time attitude. Floyd offered the elevator pitch: “You can listen to great music, drink from a full bar and also have some great food.” The 33 Taps food menu has always been one of its strongest assets, offering customers a chef-driven menu of craft burgers and fries. A top-notch bite at a gay bar is hard to come by, and the plates at 33 Taps put most bar menus to shame. 

He teased a few details of his highly anticipated new venture: Stache. Coming to West Hollywood this summer, Stache is lucratively situated across the street from Beaches and TomTom, and down the block from Weho heavy-hitters, Rocco’s and The Abbey. “Stache will also be a full restaurant and full bar, with a nightlife component as well,” Floyd shared. While he can’t reveal plans just yet, he promises big monthly parties, disco and drag. The new website, stacheweho.com, describes Stache as, “an all-inclusive social house for every form of self-expression.” The site also attributes the mustache in the name and logo as a symbol of resilience in the gay community, honoring those lost to the AIDS epidemic.

After the closing of so many iconic LA gay bars during the pandemic, Ryan Floyd’s Stache is a welcome addition to the WeHo strip.

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