Hollywood Spa, One of LA’s Oldest Gay Bathhouses, Will Close Soon

A Hollywood Spa poster from its glory years
A Hollywood Spa poster from its glory years

One of Los Angeles’ oldest gay bathhouses will be closing soon because of a dispute over rent with the owner of its building. Hollywood Spa, at 1650 Ivar Ave., is likely to close within the next two months according to Peter Sykes, owner of the spa. Sykes has owned Hollywood Spa since 1993 and also owns the North Hollywood Spa, another gay bathhouse.

Sykes said Denley Companies, the real estate firm controlled by Mehdi Bolour, wants to double the nearly $30,000 in rent he pays each month for the spa location. He also confirmed that Hollywood Spa is six months behind in payment of its rent.

Hollywood Spa interior
Hollywood Spa interior

Hollywood Spa opened in 1974 and, before the advent of HIV and AIDS, was a major destination for gay men  who had few other places to meet one another. It had 100 private rooms, a DJ, a steam room and jacuzzi, an “adult video” lounge, a gym and a cafe. The spa boasted on its website that it hosted over 100,000 visitors a year. Conditions apparently have deteriorated in recent years, with commenters on Yelp.com and various gay websites complaining about poor maintenance and customer service and drug use by spa customers.

Sykes said the rent increase is only one factor in what he called a “trifecta” of reasons for closing the spa. Other reasons he cited are that the space is too big and that business is down. He attributed the decline in customers in part to a cultural change, which he said is having an impact on gay bathhouses across the country. “You don’t have to be in the closet as a gay man,” he said. “You can go to the supermarket and play with the bananas and get a date.”

Sykes said that while he will continue to operate North Hollywood Spa, he has no intention of opening a replacement for Hollywood Spa. “I’m pushing 70 years old,” he said. “It wouldn’t make sense on my part.”

Hollywood Spa was opened in 1974 by Scott Goulet, who did of AIDS-related complications in 1993. It was one of three Los Angeles area bathhouses singled out for a lawsuit in 1990 by LA District Attorney Ira Reiner for encouraging unsafe sex practices that would lead to HIV infection.

“We’re going to fight this thing. As far as we’re concerned, we’re the good guys,”  John Ferry, a co-owner and manager of the spa, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We consider the Hollywood Spa to be an important asset in terms of being a place for gay men to socialize, be educated about health issues and be free from homophobic attacks such as this lawsuit.”

The AIDS epidemic led to a fight in the late 1980s in large cities across the United States to close gay bathhouses. Advocates for the closure said the bathhouses were places gay men met to have unprotected sex with strangers. Opponents said the bathhouses were the perfect venue for educating gay men about the consequences of unprotected sex and were an important gathering place in a city where many were hostile to gay people.

The closing of Hollywood Spa leaves Los Angeles with at least six other gay bathhouses. The oldest is Klyt Baths, with a primarily Latino clientele, at 132 E. 4th St. in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood. Klyt was established before 1922 as the “Palace Turkish Baths” with a heterosexual clientele. Rock Hudson and other closeted gay actors were rumored to have frequented the spa during the 1940s.

Other gay bathhouses in Los Angeles include Flex, 4424 Melrose Ave. in Silver Lake; Melrose Spa, 7269 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles just outside of West Hollywood, Roman Holiday at 12814 Venice Blvd. near Los Angeles International Airport and Sykes’ North Hollywood Spa at 5636 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood.

  1. I used to LOVE to go hang out at the Hollywood Spa. It was a great place to meet and play and make new friends!!

  2. Hi i started going to Hollywood spa back in 2009, when my merh addiction took place and then starting going from Hollywood to flex becuase I had no where else to go. I did that for months. Until they close.

  3. Although gay bathouses are mainly for a “wham bang, thank you ma’am” type of encounters. That being said, the first two serious relationships I had I found at the Hollywood Spa, both with Asian man. I like the ecletic group of guys who patronize that venue. I’m sad it’s closed. By the time quit going, it was getting pretty expensive. I did find other less expensive venues and would hit them on half price days. Even though on half price days the time limit is trunkaded. One can have a lot of fun in six rather than eight hours.

  4. I used to go The Hollywood Spa in the 80’s as did all my friends it was before A.I.D. s and I remember always having a blast at that place. I preferred the 8709. Bit The Spa was much closer. It was a very crazy time to live in Hollywood, and everything went and I mean everything! I will miss those days with all my heart. Hollywood was definently where is wast at!

  5. Scott Goulet was a wonderful person- and a good business man – and raised ALOT of money for aids related charities- proud to call him a friend

  6. Funny… came across this looking for value of a couple of old Hollywood Spa posters I have. They were from 1982, I was barely out then, and sent away from them after reading their advertisements in “In Touch” (porn) magazine. Too bad so much ignorance and stupidity still runs rampant through our community 32 years later (read above comments).

  7. Claiming that Ebola is a risk is farfetched.
    But you are right: There are health risks :Hepatitis, Chlamidea, syphilis, gonorrea, to name a few.
    Sincé HIV used to be lethal, too much attention is focused on that disease only . But there others…

    Being gay and hormone-driven is not a picnic. Celibacy could be an option as stamina dwindles away, if boredom does not kill one first

  8. I would be fearful to go there now. I had fun there years ago but now days with Ebola & AIDS, gay sex is to risky going with different sex partner all the time. That use to be sexy fun but the risk out weighs the fun and apparently my feelings are share by the closure of Hollywood Spa. The days of free wheeling sexcapades are a thing in the past. Glad I experienced and survived. So many were not so lucky and I am sure regretting the antics that ultimately killed them. So many fantastic, beautiful and talented men gone for what? A few moment of fleeting passion. Hormones drives them to engage in dangerous things involving sex.

  9. I met a lifelong friend there. I met 2 long-term lovers there. Say what you may about bathhouses, but meeting people in person was better than shopping for body parts on the net.

  10. what a pity.. this was an extremely successful venture until peter sykes took over.. very poor management on his part killed what once was a gay paradise. i know, i worked there for several years.

Comments are closed.