The Uncertain Future of LA’s Famed Gay Nightclubs

The expansive bar and restaurant scene in Los Angeles is as diverse as its many neighborhoods. For the LGBT community, certain nightclubs and bars served as more than just a source of entertainment — they were retreats where people could gather without judgment and unite as a gay community.

In the early days of the gay rights movement, such nightclubs played an important role in LGBT visibility as they fought for the rights they deserved. These buildings have become iconic landmarks for the LGBT community, but now some may be in danger of extinction.

An article from LA Curbed revealed that some of the most historic nightclubs are threatened by new business development or changes in ownership. Preservationists are fighting to keep some of LA’s most famed gay nightclubs away from the throes of destruction.

In one of LA’s most famous gay neighborhoods, the former Studio One sits just off of Santa Monica boulevard in West Hollywood. Now known as The Factory, Studio One first opened back in 1974 during the height of the disco days as a trailblazer for the gay community.

The venue served as a safe place for the LGBT community to gather but also held fundraisers and benefits in the name of gay rights. The Factory has undergone several name changes since its earliest days but remains a cornerstone in West Hollywood’s nightclub scene.

The building may cease to exist if a new business venture is pursued. The plan is to put a 250-room hotel, shops, and restaurants in the area where The Factory is now.

Back in 1995, preservationists attempted to designate the factory as a West Hollywood landmark but ultimately failed, and now the building is in jeopardy. Just recently, National Trust for Historic Preservation put The Factory on its list of endangered sites.

As of now, the status of The Factory as a historic site still remains uncertain. If historic landmark status is not achieved, the building may fall prey to demolition to make way for this new development.

Another historic gay nightclub facing demolition is Circus Disco. Opened in 1975, this psychedelic, big-top themed disco venue grew to have a “primarily Latino patronage,” holding both historic and nostalgic value in the hearts of the LGBT community’s Latino members.

Since 1983, however, fundraisers have been held to keep the Circus in business.

The efforts were paltry; the fundraisers were never quite enough to keep the club up and running because many do not consider all of the costs and maintenance that go into servicing a large warehouse such as Circus Disco. Yearly service is needed on central air equipment, but this is something only 42% of central air users actually follow through on.

Because of this, developers are making way for yet another new business venture — a “megadevelopment” containing residential condos and over 21,000 square feet of retail space. This project will cover over six acres of coveted space on Santa Monica boulevard and wipe out Circus Disco completely.

Earlier this month, a hearing to declare Circus Disco as a historic/cultural landmark was postponed. Little negotiation was made in attempts to save the building, and it is now set to close in Jan. 2016.

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