OPINION: Cooley’s May Be Beautiful, But It’s a Bad Idea for WeHo’s Boystown

EDITOR’S NOTE: Alfredo Diaz is the co-owner of Revolver, a bar at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Larrabee that he and his business partner opened two years ago.

Alfredo Diaz
Alfredo Diaz

Last night I stood at the City of West Hollywood’s Community Development meeting to object to a proposal to approve the opening of Cooley’s, a large establishment that will face Santa Monica Boulevard and West Hollywood Park.

My objections to Cooley’s are not based on whether or not David Cooley is a good guy or how great the Abbey is or what both have done for West Hollywood. My concern is about what Cooley’s will become in the long run, about whether the “conditional use permit” the city has granted Cooley’s to open as a restaurant will dictate what it becomes in the future. Once granted, that permit will remain with the site on which Cooley’s be built, regardless of who the tenant and operator are.

My objections also aren’t about my fear of Cooley’s competing with Revolver, the bar a block and a half away that my business partner and I reopened two years ago. There are currently more than 20 places that serve alcohol within a three-block radius of Revolver. Naturally, each and every bar will see a drop in business as people choose to try out a new place when it opens. Yes, new bars mean that the customers of the existing bars and restaurants will be further divided and distributed, resulting in decreased revenue for some of us. How much of a decrease, how long will that last and who will be affected? That no one can say.

I will be the first to admit the plans for Cooley’s are aesthetically pleasing. However that alone does not make the project worth the automatic approval the city gave it Tuesday night. As nice as the design is, Cooley’s proposed floor plan creates outdoor space for commercial use that directly affects the nearby West Hollywood Park and the surrounding residential neighborhood in a way not seen anywhere else in the country.

Allowing Cooley’s to open a 3,000-square-foot patio overlooking the park  creates a precedent for all the businesses along the park to do the same. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the impact a handful of noisy bars would have on a space that has been  created as an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

The argument that most of the noise will be limited to the nighttime is a gross under assessment for two reasons. First, David Cooley’s nearby Abbey enjoys robust daytime business, and so would Cooley’s because they are similar in size and scope. Second, sound travels further and seems louder at night without the ambient noise created by daytime activity. That’s especially true in a park that lacks structures to absorb the noise.

Cooley’s over-sized restrooms and a bar area disproportionate in size to its own kitchen are vibrant red flags as to the future business SBE intends to operate there. I wouldn’t doubt that Cooley’s and SBE will be applying for modifications to their conditional use permit  to allow them to offer live entertainment and dancing and stay open after 2 a.m. It is liquor sales, and the relatively high profit margin that comes with that, that will generate the revenue necessary to pay for operating in a space that covers what once was three storefronts.

As a gay man and a West Hollywood business owner, I have serious concerns about the direction Boystown is headed in its development. Will the placement of Cooley’s on Santa Monica Boulevard near Robertson cannibalize the gay customer base of the nearby Abbey, making it an even straighter venue than it currently is? There isn’t an infinite supply of LGBT residents and visitors to sustain two such mega businesses, not to mention proposed nearby venues such as P.U.M.P. and The Horn. Will these large businesses alter the demographics of the area—making it less gay—or will these businesses crush themselves under the weight of their own square footage?

Having the right tenant mix on Santa Monica Boulevard is crucial for all of the businesses there to thrive. The vast majority of those businesses opposed to this project, and I suspect that once nearby residents are made fully aware its impact on the park they will feel the same.

Cooley’s may be beautiful, but it is a bad idea for our neighborhood.


newest oldest
Notify of
BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

Alfredo is trying to preserve the gay culture in WeHo and sees Cooley’s as a threat to that. I happen to agree with him. Get beyond the fact that he is a business owner and consider what he is saying about the long-term effect on the identity of this community when straight people are not comfortable with the kind of entertainment gay people mostly are. It will be gay people who will be expected to adjust to accommodate them. Not the other way around.

WeHo Latin
Guest
WeHo Latin

“The fact is Revolver has captured a very coveted segment of the gay population, established gay men with money and an appreciation for the fact we are a gay owned and operated business. Neither the Abbey nor Cooley’s can ever say the same about being gay owned and operated. I found it wildly amusing that no one from SBE was there speaking. Perhaps I missed that.” “Gay men with money” “Gay … money” I don’t recall the old original and beloved Revolver video bar ever being the go to hangout for established rich queens. The Revolver I remember was down… Read more »

Hans Hannson
Guest
Hans Hannson

Santa Monica Boulevard is dead. Mickey’s, Rage, Motherlode and the uninspired return of Revolver two years ago make me feel embarrassed for us as a community when outsiders come to visit. If it weren’t for Here and the Abbey we’d be a total joke. Cooley’s and PUMP are exactly what this city needs. It’s time we elevated ourselves to the showstopping, jaw-dropping, gay L.A. mecca we’re expected to be. Here’s a tip Fredo: stop calling yourself a video bar. What in the 1989 hell is a “video bar?” You show videos on tv screens? You also have a flight of… Read more »

Katel
Guest
Katel

I was with you when you talked about preserving quiet at the park, but then you went on about “Boystown” (tackiest section of WeHo and visited mostly by tourists and suburban gays). Fortunately, WeHo is more than that and more diverse than your limited vision of it.

luca d
Guest
luca d

the personal insults and assumptions on this thread are embarrassing. mr. diaz makes some interesting points and has a right to express them. he is not going to win this battle today but his concern about what the new venue may become, are fair. the abbey started out as a coffee shop, and it was a great hang out. twenty years later, it has become a vulgar haunt for hipsters and ‘b’ list celebrities. my opinion. I have no idea what cooley’s will do to the neighboring businesses, but I suspect it will hurt for a bit, but things will… Read more »

Justin
Guest
Justin

Get a grip Alfredo, and your blue eyed boy boyfriend. There are no good restaurants in West Hollywood and this will only bring people to the street to perhaps dine and have an after dinner drink at your place. The ugly rants on here really show the pettiness of the argument against Cooleys. Alfredo is not concerned for the neighborhood. I live on Cynthia, near Palm and am very familiar with the local businesses and Alfredo has never did one thing for the community and his neighbors are not fond of him at all. It is quite known from the… Read more »

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

VERY well said, Terry. You said it better than I. Consider what Alfredo is saying as if he couldn’t have any vested interest other than his love for WeHo and its culture, just as I do.

Terry
Guest
Terry

Really good points made ine the article, regardless of who the author is. That a loud bar will open to a beautiful and serene park is a legitimate concern for reasonable, objective people. J S-D, your comment about European plazas made me think twice about how I feel about the situation. If it worked out that way, I agree… It would be nice. I worry that the more likely scenario is that it will end up essentially being a loud bar blasting club music into the park. To me, that’s not appealing. But again, I like the plaza in a… Read more »

Greg
Guest
Greg

Its too bad it is a pissing match between one business and another new venture. The more the merrier, … Why is Alfredo asking all these questions about the abbey or sbe or how much money he has,.. its Cooleys choice is to invest in west hollywood and a lot more dough and novel idea than Mr Diaz could think up…with no imagination he had to go back to an old name from yesteryear and mimic a tired name instead of from a new identity.. If you read Alfredo’s responses and more responses and the defenses of his blueeyed friend… Read more »

Todd Bianco
Guest

Has anyone established who actually owns Cooley’s? Sure, David Cooley is the public face of the project; but if SBE is the majority owner “silent investor” and the place will be run as another SBE venue, shouldn’t we know? I now Alfredo says that’s the case. Have there been any public disclosures on the matter? SBE’s history of running restaurants and nightclubs is checkered, as pointed out in the comments here. Remember, the liquor license and other land use permits run with the land, not the owner/operator. So if the place ever goes belly up, only a large, very well… Read more »

SL
Guest
SL

Shawn, aka Alfredo doppleganger: My point about Alfredo is that he has little credibility on the issues he’s presented because of his obvious financial interest that he illogically dismisses. He should have admitted up front that the competition at Cooley’s will hurt his business and that is part of his reason for his disagreement with the project. Instead, he attempts to appear saintly in his wanting to protect the community against a new business that will do monetary harm to his business. (That harm may be fleeing or permanent, but that’s another issue.) As for your statement: “And what’s the… Read more »

Bazoo
Guest
Bazoo

SL.. your comment about Big Gun Fridays is just plain stupid. Big Gun relates to big biceps not weapons. Stick to the real issues not stupid distractions. There are legitimate arguments on both sides so let’s focus on the real issues and not make a bunch of petty accusations against anyone. Smart development is important and it’s critical that all legitimate feedback be aired so the correct decision can be made.