Another LA Gay Bathhouse Gone with the Closing of Flex

Flex Spa
Flex Spa

Flex Spa in Silver Lake apparently has closed.

A signed posted last night at the entrance to the parking lot of the gay bathhouse, which is at 4424 Melrose Ave. in Silver Lake, says simply “business closed.” As of this posting, the owner, Fleck & Associates of Cleveland, has not returned calls from WEHOville.com. No one is answering calls at the Flex Los Angeles location.

The closing of Flex comes on the heels of the closing of Hollywood Spa in Hollywood, announced in February. Peter Sykes, owner of Hollywood Spa, said traffic at his bathhouse had declined. He attributed that 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.”

Others have noted the popularity of so-called “hookup” apps like Grindr and Scruff, which gay men use to meet other gay men on their mobile phones for casual sexual encounters.

Bathhouses or spas catering to gay men have existed in the United States since at least the 1920s. In a more homophobic culture, they were one of the few places where gay men could meet one another. A movement to close them began in the late 1980s during the height of the AIDS epidemic. 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.

Flex is part of a chain established by Charles Fleck of Cleveland. Fleck, who died in 2012, created a chain of Flex spas in Cleveland, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Phoenix. He turned Flex Cleveland into the world’s largest bathhouse with hotel rooms, indoor and outdoor pools and a bar. Fleck argued that bathhouses were an important tool in fighting HIV and brought AIDS service organizations in to offer testing. He also insisted that his spas distribute free condoms.

“I’ll show you my condom bill sometime,” he told a reporter for the Cleveland Scene in 2006. “I buy more condoms than anyone.”

Flex Los Angeles, which offered a gym, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a steam room and sauna and numerous private rooms for short term rentals, also had an HIV testing counselor at its Los Angeles location on weekends. On Sunday afternoons it hosted a popular free barbeque.

Los Angeles has at least five 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. Others are Melrose Spa, 7269 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles just outside of West Hollywood, Midtowne Spa, 615 Kohler St. in Los Angeles, Roman Holiday at 12814 Venice Blvd. near Los Angeles International Airport, the 1350 Club at 510 W Anaheim St in Wilmington and Peter Sykes’ North Hollywood Spa at 5636 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood. The Melrose Spa, 1350 Club and Midtowne Spa are all owned by Midtowne Spas Inc.


17 Comments
  1. I don’t get the internet thing. This world is becoming a syborg planet. The bath house serves a purpose in our culture and sociey. The service is human contact, communication person to person. I challange young and mature to service the institution such as a bath house its the greatest form of connection of like minds, a place to wind down and enjoy one anothers company on so many different levels. Lets not loose what is a great gift too our culture and society.

  2. It’s hard to manage people who show up acting ok and them get high. I saw a few who were reported and removed. Don’t blame Flex, bland those who f–ked it up for everyone. Bathhouses serve a useful purpose for people who act responsibly. The internet is more hit and miss. Now the other clubs can pick up the slack.

  3. Flex was a haven for drug users. Sorry, its a know fact. Not much fun trying to play with someone that is bouncing off the walls. Perhaps a zero tolerance towards drugs would’ve been more beneficial for Flex instead of ignoring the issue.

    Obtaining a new permit to operate as a legitimate bathhouse in Los Angeles will be very difficult.

    RIP FLEX – You’ll be missed for a few days then like life, We all move on.

    1. So there is/was no drug use at Slammer, Basic Plumbing, Mail Box,etc? I remember when Steve was the manager, if he or one of the staff had any reason to believe someone was using drugs then they were permanently 86’d. I’ve seen Steve personally wait until they were dressed, and escort them out of the facility.

      As an example, no sex club, bathouse or bar for that matter want’s to have the police show up to take care of any crime/disturbance, whether that is drugs, drunken brawl etc.

  4. This club was just as bad as the Hollywood Spa was for druggies. They wouldn’t get rid of them like some of the other clubs do so now they are closed. No fun going to a club with a bunch of tweakers its a real turn off.

  5. Yeah. Had the reporter walked past the parking lot sign he/she would see a sign on the door about the city permit issue. There’s no way to post my pic here.

  6. The lights remain on and there’s still a few cars in the lot at night. Wonder if “city permit” issue is something else. It happened so suddenly. Memorial Day Weekend would have been fun and crowded. I enjoyed their Sunday BBQs

  7. According to the Flex Spas web site it is only a temporary city permit issue and is expected to be resolved, though no time frame appears to have been given.

  8. to Erik. I dont see any progress in people losing their job. sure its just 30 people but thats more than enough to hurt them.

  9. It was a nice place actually, and it’s controversial in the same time. It will be missed, that’s for sure.

  10. Flex will be missed. End of an era. It’s not the place, it’s what one does there that matters. Besides sex, sometimes it was nice to just lounge by the pool, get a suntan and take in the vibe. Internet just doesn’t offer the same.

  11. its probably a good thing. They are breeding grounds for STD’s and drug use, but organizations like AHF have never addressed that issue. It makes sense though with all the sex apps out there people don’t need baths anymore just like what happened to the travel agencies business…the internet kills a lot of businesses…but its all part of progess.

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