The iconic venues that won’t be returning after COVID-19


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One of the sad facts of the pandemic is that many of our favorite gay bars and clubs, already under strain from high real urban estate prices & dating apps, are closing not just temporarily, but for good. We’ll update this list regularly to include some of the best known. Please let us know in comments below the venues we have missed–and that will be missed. 

Some of your favorite LGBTQ venues will not be back after COVID-19 lockdown measures have been eased.

Gay bars and clubs already faced tough trading conditions before the pandemic. A report in 2017 found that London, UK, lost over 50% of its gay venues in the preceding decade, with more closing since that time. The pattern has been repeated in other hotspots such as New York City and San Francisco.

People increasingly meet at home via apps rather than at bars, while gentrification has led to leases in gayborhoods becoming more expensive.

However, if things were tough before, the pandemic has made things worse. Many hospitality businesses are simply not equipped to stay closed for months at a time or to operate at a reduced capacity.

Here are just some of the venues that are unlikely to reopen once the pandemic eases.

Therapy, New York City

Therapy in New York City
(Photo: Therapy)

Therapy in New York City announced on Facebook this week it’s unlikely to reopen. The large, Hell’s Kitchen venue, which launched in 2003, is famed for its drag shows, often featuring queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“It’s with tears in our eyes that we have to admit it is highly unlikely that Therapy will ever reopen. Every one of YOU who has ever worked here, performed here, partied here… We love you. And though we cannot be together today, always know you are Therapy’s family.”

Co-owner Tom Johnson told Eater New York there was a “99%” chance of the bar closing. He said much of the bar’s business was tied to visitors to Broadway, but with Broadway basically shut until next year, the bar couldn’t survive serving a limited number of customers.

Related: New York City gay bars

9th Avenue Saloon, New York City


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Also in Hell’s Kitchen is the long-running 9th Avenue Saloon. The fun and unpretentious dive bar had been operating for over 30 years. It has now closed its doors for good according to multiple postings on social media. GayCities has contacted the venue for comment.

Another iconic NYC dive bar set to close this weekend is Rusty Knot in the West Village. Although not a gay bar per se, it was popular with many LGBTQ patrons, particularly on Sundays.

The Stud, San Francisco


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In May, the owners of The Stud – San Francisco’s longest-operating LGBTQ bar – announced the business was vacating its longterm home. The venue has a history dating back to 1966. In 2016, its ownership was taken over by an LGBTQ collective of scene performers and promoters who breathed new life into the business. However, even they couldn’t contend with quarantine, and The Stud is no more at 399 Ninth Street.

At the moment, the team continues to produce online drag shows and a podcast on The Stud’s history, with a fundraising Patreon to help the team find a new home.

Related: SF’s oldest gay bar forced to vacate its home but vows to stay alive 

Blow Buddies, San Francisco

One of the most infamous, gay sex clubs in the U.S., Blow Buddies opened in 1988. The 6,000 square-foot club opened in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, seeking to offer somewhere that men could explore safer sex options, including glory holes (hence the name).

Last month, it posted the following message to its website: “Sadly, Blow Buddies will not be reopening after the pandemic. We tried many ways to figure out a path to return and were unsuccessful … It was a good run…August 8, 1988 to March 15, 2020. We are sad to see this chapter close. We thank our many members for their support over all those years. The club was created in response to one virus and done in by another.”

Badlands, San Francisco


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The Castro-located Badlands dance club posted a message to its Facebook page in late July stating it would not be reopening and would be replaced by a new business. The bar first opened in 1975.

“Badlands bar is closed. Later this fall a new bar, under new ownership, will open in the Badlands location. The name of the new bar and other details will be announced later, closer to the opening date.”

Virgil’s Sea Room, San Francisco


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Although only open since 2013, Virgil’s Sea Room had a built loyal following with its cocktails, trivia quiz nights and “everyone welcome” attitude. On February 22, 2021, its owner said it could no longer survive after months of closure.

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we announce our closure. We are another victim of the times. After a year of constant loss, not enough help from the feds, and a mental fatigue that can’t quite be described… Virgil’s has made the tough decision to close.

“It is truly heartbreaking when we were so happy with our business, our staff and of course our most fabulous patrons! We will miss you all! A huge thank you to everyone that ever worked at Virgil’s and came through the doors. We will never forget the unique magic of that time and place.”

Related: San Francisco gay bars

Parliament House, Orlando


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The management of Parliament House – a 112-room hotel with several bars, dance floor and theatre – announced in October it would be closing on November, 2.

“For over 45 years, The Parliament House has called Orange Blossom Trail our home,” it said. “We have to announce that our home at its current location will be closing Monday, November 2, 2020. We put up a good fight over the last 11 months to secure financing and renovate our existing property. Unfortunately, that fight ended today with no deal.”

The owners say they hope to reopen in a new venue soon.

Club Cobra, Los Angeles


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This LGBTQ Latinx bar in North Hollywood was founded in 2007. In May, its owner, Julio Licón announced via Facebook it would not reopen after the COVID pandemic after the building’s landlord decided to sell the property.

“It breaks my heart to have to make this announcement. @Clubcobra will not reopen. Unfortunately, we were not able to come back from the COVID-19 shut down. I want to thank each and every one of our customers especially our faithful regulars… our Cobra Family. Together we made the LA LGBTQ+ scene undeniably the best in the country!”

Oil Can Harry’s, Los Angeles


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Open since 1968, Oil Can Harry’s was beloved for its line-dancing sessions and disco nights. Sadly, the landlord sold the premises in December 2020. On January 4, 2021, the owner of Oil Can Harry’s posted a message to its website saying the new owner wanted to turn it into a jazz venue: “So, at this time I have to vacate the property–nothing bad or ugly, just something I have to do. I fought hard to keep it, but just had to give up… Not sure where it will lead down the road.”

Gold Coast Bar, West Hollywood


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Gold Coast has been operating as a gay bar for 39 years. In September, one of its owners, Bryan Worl, took to Facebook to announce it would not be reopening after negotiations with the building’s landlord failed to save the business.

Gym Sportsbar, West Hollywood

Gay sports bar Gym announced in early July it was closing its Santa Monica Boulevard location. In a video posted to its Facebook page, co-owner Rick Schmutzler said, “It’s no mystery that this pandemic has been incredibly difficult on small businesses, especially bars and restaurants … There is no path forward for us at this location.”

The business had been operating for 11 years, and was a sister venue to the successful Gym Sportsbar in New York’s Chelsea. The owners are hopeful that they will be able to return to a new WeHo venue at some point in the future.

Flaming Saddles, West Hollywood


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The owners of the country’n’western themed Flaming Saddles in West Hollywood, Los Angeles County, announced in August 2020 on Facebook that after five months of closure, the bar would not be reopening.

“Covid-19 has wreaked 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.”

Fortunately, its sister bar, Flaming Saddles in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, has reopened for business.

Rage, West Hollywood


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Dance club Rage was a West Hollywood staple for 37 years. Sadly, in early September, it was reported it would not be returning.  The management was unable to secure a new lease with its landlords when the current lease expires in November, so it won’t be back when clubs are allowed to reopen.

CC Slaughters, Portland


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This bar in Portland, Oregon, has been running for 39 years and is one of the best-known LGBTQ venues in the northwest. On October 4, it posted a message to its official Facebook page saying, “It saddens us to inform the public that as of Sunday October 11th, 2020, CC Slaughters Portland will be closing. We’d like to take the opportunity to thank you ALL for 39 amazing years of drinks, dancing, drama, and fun!

“Unfortunately 2020 has been very hard on small businesses everywhere and we are no exception to the hard times we all are experiencing. We hope we can open our doors again to you (our family) sometime in the future, but until then, please be safe, practice social distancing, and take care.”

DC Eagle, Washington DC

Launched in 1971, the DC Eagle was the oldest gay bar in Washington DC. Employees were informed of the decision not to reopen in May during an online Zoom meeting. Although it began life as a leather and denim cruise bar, in recent years, DC Eagle had become a more inclusive-space, easing its dress code and hosting regular drag shows and community fundraisers.

The venue had been sold to a new owner, and it was expected to close later in the year to make way for new property developments, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought that closure forward.

Related: Washington DC loses two of its biggest and longest-running gay venues 

Ziegfelds-Secrets, Washington DC


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Like DC Eagle, the future of Ziegfelds-Secrets – the biggest LGBTQ venue in DC – was already in doubt after it was sold to new owners in 2016, with a view to potential property redevelopment. However, the pandemic was the final nail in the coffin. Management posted a message to social media in May stating, “Ziegfelds/Secrets regrettably has been forced to close our doors. We all have been honored to bring you the best in entertainment for 40 years, regrettably the option to stay and even have a closing event has been taken from us during this crisis.”

Attitudes, St.Louis


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With a history dating back to 1988, Attitudes was the longest-running gay club in St Louis, Missouri. Its owners announced in August the venue was shuttering for good, via a message on Facebook.

“After 32 years, thousands of drinks, and wonderful times we will be closing our doors for good … we are living in a time where we don’t know what the future looks like. So many businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, have been hit hard by this Pandemic. It has been rough, but we can’t thank our current staff enough for how hard they have been working during this time.”

The Albuquerque Social Club, Albuquerque

This long-running LGBTQ venue opened in the 1970s as The Heights, before becoming Albuquerque Social Club (or just “The Soch”) in 1983. It closed in March because of the pandemic. In late August, its board of directors said it would not be reopening, citing financial difficulties prompted by the ongoing pandemic.

“We waited as long as we could to make the decision, but because we were not bringing money in we aren’t able to sustain our creditors,” board president Jay Decker told The Albuquerque Journal.

Guava Lamp, Houston

The 22-year-old Guava Lamp announced October 8 on Instagram that it would not be reopening following its closure in June. “The time has come to gracefully bow out and exit stage left … We have had the privilege to serve and entertain Houston’s diverse and expansive community,” the post read. “We cheerfully celebrated countless nights of karaoke, talented entertainers from across the country, as well as many special occasions.”

BT2, Austin

North Austin gay bar ‘Bout Time 2 closed in March because of the pandemic and announced in May it was shuttering for good. Bout Time II opened in 2012, and was the second incarnation of the bar, with the first ‘Bout Time running from 1984-2012.

Grand Central, Baltimore


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The much-loved LGBTQ venue opened in Baltimore in 1991 as Central Station. After it took over the neighboring Stagecoach it relaunched as Grand Central in 2003. However, in early September is posted an announcement on Instagram that it would not be returning due to “challenges created by the pandemic and our beverage-only driven business.”

Amsterdam Atlanta, Atlanta

Gay bar and restaurant Amsterdam Atlanta opened 15 years ago but closed in mid-September following a large drop in business because of the pandemic.

“Our lease was coming up in November, and the business just wasn’t what it was after the pandemic,” co-owner Joel Bradshaw told Project Q Atlanta. “Winter’s coming on, and the majority of our business is outside on that patio.”

Atlanta Eagle, Atlanta


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At the beginning of October, owner Richard Ramey announced that the Atlanta Eagle would be closing in mid-November at its current home on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Midtown. The venue had been open for 33 years but restricted trading during the pandemic had made it impossible to continue. However, Ramey says he hopes to find a home for the venue and reopen “when the pandemic is over.” He hopes that this might be in June 2021, so watch this space.

Little Jim’s, Chicago


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Little Jim’s was the first gay bar to open in the Boystown district around 45 years ago. A homely, attitude-free establishment, it had a reputation as being like a gay ‘Cheers’ (the bar in the long-running comedy show) where all members of the LGBTQ community were welcome. It closed in early July. The premises may be converted into a new, additional clinic for the Howard Brown Health center.

Manhandler Saloon, Chicago


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This legendary dive bar launched in 1980. For four decades, it offered cocktails and backroom fun for the thousands of guys who passed through its doors. Sadly, it called last orders on November,9, 2020. “Thanks to all our patrons for forty wonderful years of serving chicago’s gay community!” it said on a posting to its Facebook page.

The Beaver, Toronto


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This popular LGBTQ venue opened in 2006, proving queer venues could exist outside of Toronto’s gay village. The bar closed in March because of COVID-19. Last week, the team confirmed it would not be returning. What some people love about the place – its cramped intimacy – was now a major setback in a post-COVID, social distancing world.

“The Beaver has always operated on a fine line of keeping the doors open,” the team said on social media. “There were a lot of headwinds that we’ve weathered pretty well … Buildings kept shooting up around us, and somehow we dodged it, time and time again. Our rent kept going up though. The people that come through our doors are all stripes of queermos – a demographic that is increasingly being pushed out of a ridiculously priced city, yet the remaining creatures of night kept coming to our little hole in the wall. Then, COVID happened.”

Owner Lynn Macneill told CBC, “I’m very sure it wouldn’t have closed if the virus hadn’t hit us in the way that it has.”

Boom!, Fredericton


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Another Canadian staple, Boom! had been operating in Fredericton, New Brunswick, for the past 15 years and was the city’s only surviving LGBTQ club. It posted a message to its (now deleted) Facebook page at the end of June, stating: “It has been 105 days since we were forced to close our doors ‪on March 13th‬ due to COVID-19, and during that time we were left not knowing when, or if, we would be permitted to reopen or to what capacity … Unfortunately, with the new limitations, the past and future loss is too great.”

Related: Stonewall Inn launches crowdfunder to avoid shuttering

Sadly, as Government-backed business assistance schemes come to an end, this list is likely to grow longer over the coming months.

UPDATE: This article was updated to include Badlands, San Francisco on 31 July 2020, and will be updated to include news of more closures as they emerge.

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