Rage’s New Owner Touts Iconic Weho Bar as Now Gay-Owned and Gay-Operated

Rage has gotten a little facelift under Thomas Michel's ownership.
Rage has gotten a little facelift under Thomas Michel’s ownership.

The Abbey, under the ownership of Sam Nazarian’s SBE, is becoming known as a place where guys meet girls rather than other guys. At the corner of Robertson and Santa Monica boulevards, Lisa Vanderpump of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” has opened P.U.M.P., which she bills as a gay bar. But its clientele so far seems to consist largely of reality TV star wannabes and the men who love them (along with a smattering of gay celebutantes such as Bobby Trendy).

In what some see as the “degayification” of WeHo’s Boystown, Thomas Michel sees an opportunity. The new owner of Rage is proudly proclaiming that his is a bar that is gay owned and operated.

Rage, at 8911 Santa Monica Blvd. near San Vicente, is what some consider a historic venue in gay West Hollywood. Older men post online about it being the first gay bar they ever entered. Michel says most gay men in West Hollywood at one time or another have been ejected for being underage.

It was opened in 1983 by Robert B. Maghame and Saeed Sattari, two heterosexual men who saw a business opportunity in a nightspot that would cater to gay men. Michel worked for them as a promoter for 11 years before buying Rage himself.

Michel acknowledges that there’s a “stigma” attached to Rage that stems from the difficulties gay nightlife promoters had working with Maghame and Sattari.
“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “The previous owners burned bridges. We want to rebuild those bridges.”

The good news, Michel said, is that nightlife promoters are now approaching him. As important as a venue is in the gay nightlife world, it’s those promoters who are key. They are the ones who use social media and their email lists to get customers in the door for themed nights like Brandon Anthony’s “Socialite Sundays,” an “urban” event, which means it’s aimed at an African-American crowd.

Rage already has nights that are aimed at attracting young gay Asian men (“Game Boy”) and Latinos (“Noche Latina”). The first Saturday of the month is “Juicy Club,” its night for lesbians.

Michel said he wants to expand Rage’s audience. “My version of the new Rage is not only to cater to the gay community, but I feel there’s a need to embrace the diversity of the community,” he said. With that in mind, he’s considering introducing “bear” nights, to attract hirsute gay men and those who love them and “leather” nights for those with that fetish.

But above all, he wants his customers to know that they are patronizing an establishment owned by someone of their sexual orientation. “I have a problem with a straight establishment trying to make money off of gay people,” he said.

Thomas, a native of Nice, came to the United States to satisfy his passion for flying helicopters and planes. He also spent time in the restaurant business and in real estate. But now his goal is once again to fly high, this time by reinvigorating West Hollywood’s 31-year-old Rage.

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[…] Thomas Michel is getting reimbursed for his failed effort to turn Rage into one of West Hollywood’s few gay-owned bars. […]

Sia Amiri
Sia Amiri
6 years ago

Rage was opend in 1983 was created by SIA AMIRI and
Under owner ship of SIA AMIRI & ROBERT MAGHAME,
& SAEED SATTARI was manager after .

David Keesey
David Keesey
6 years ago

If you really want an incredible evening of exceptional entertainment, staff and patrons you need to park your body back in Studio City at Ol Can Harry’s. One of the oldest, yet friendliest gay bar cabaret clubs since the 70’s. This is still one of my favorite places to attend. Last year we lost our leader Bob Tomasino to a tragic car accident, may he rest in peace. However, thanks to the gang at the club like Tommy Young.who continue to build on all the love and beauty a real gay bar should deserve. Thank You Tommy! Check it out… Read more »

Shawn Thompson
6 years ago

To the new owner at RAGE Restaurant & Bar – West Hollywood Congrats! I think Rage has the best lights and sound system in weho. I have so many fond memories of dancing the night away at rage. Sunday Nights were the bomb way back when. And I miss the days when Rage would pump Just a friendly suggestion. Take what you want and leave the rest After years of Rage slipping into a flat spot to now want to rebirth it I don’t think charging a cover $5 on wed and $5 on Sunday are the way to get… Read more »

Mel Mains
Mel Mains
6 years ago

“I have a problem with a straight establishment trying to make money off of gay people,” he said.

Anyone else think this is an effing ridiculous statement? God forbid a gay person open a STRAIGHT bar and make money ‘off of’ straight people. No one is being forced to patronize any establishment. Bragging about being gay-owned only more sharply underscores the imagined ‘difference’ between straight and gay, a ‘difference’ which people have died in the attempt to eliminate.

6 years ago

Totally agreed. For being paid like medical professionals many in the service industry act as if popping a cap is a huge pain in the ass. I’d be just as happy with the place installing booze vending machines. The surly, disgruntled, pampered bartender is becoming the norm, not the anomaly and it kills an otherwise great venue.

Shawn Thompson
6 years ago

They need to do some retraining of the staff in my opinion thats been there for so long. Many appear to not enjoy working in the night life and not happy to be a part of it The staff is just as important as the venue and talent. And I have found some of the staff thats been there for so long with a lack of hospitality to the customers. For some reason I have found that the gay community gets some less than top notch service in its gay clubs and it appears that its accepted that way by… Read more »