The ‘Gayest Store on Earth’ Will Close March 31

The “gayest store on earth” will close its doors on March 31.

block party, larry block, gayest store on earthLarry Block, owner of The Block Party, a clothing store in the heart of the West Hollywood gay nightlife district known as Boystown, announced the closing of the store today.

The closing of The Block Party is the latest in a series of changes in the Boystown area that have led observers to wonder whether it will survive as a gay-centric nightlife and shopping district.

The Block Party opened at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd. near Larrabee five years ago, replacing Different Light, a famous gay bookstore. It has catered to a largely gay clientele with underwear, swimwear, shirts and tank tops and shorts. It also sells jewelry and gay-specific greeting cards.

The Block Party’s lease with Timothy Sullivan’s Larrabee Ventures ended last October. Block, an unsuccessful candidate in the March 3 race for West Hollywood City Council, told WEHOville that he had asked for a six-month extension of the lease while he negotiated a plan to merge with Video West, a nearby business on Larrabee Street owned by Claudia Flores, whose lease also was up. Block said the merger, which would have had both businesses share the Block Party space, would have allowed them to survive substantial rent increases and common area charges. Video West has been in business since 1984. The merger required the approval of Larrabee Ventures. But in an email to Block this morning, Sullivan said “We will not be able to do the video west deal. Your store will not be available after March 31.”

According to Block, Sullivan is considering using The Block Party space for a health food / juice bar. It is unclear whether Flores will continue to operate Video West. As of this morning WEHOville was unable to reach her for comment.

The Boystown area, which runs along Santa Monica Boulevard from San Vicente to Robertson, has undergone substantial changes in recent years.

Clubs like The Abbey, one of the area’s most popular gay venues, increasingly attract a heterosexual crowd. P.U.M.P., a bar opened by the reality TV performer Lisa Vanderpump at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson boulevards, was billed by her as a gay club. But visitors note that on most nights it has a largely heterosexual crowd. David Cooley, the founder of The Abbey, is opening a large restaurant with a bar called Cooley’s that will cater to a diverse crowd.

The owner of Eleven, a gay nightclub on the corner of Santa Monica and Larrabee, sold it last year to a heterosexual couple from New York City that converted it into Flaming Saddles, a gay Country/Western bar that appears to attract few customers. Here Lounge, whose owner Pat Rogers created several popular gay establishments in New York City, is not open as many nights a week as it used to be. And Rage, a gay bar that opened in 1983, continues to suffer from a lack of customers. The Horn, a restaurant whose gay owner, Adam Klesh, created a menu featuring wild game, closed earlier this month after only five months in business. Klesh has said the restaurant will reopen with a less-expensive menu.

There are various theories about the decline of gay-oriented businesses in Boystown. Block attributes it in part to the city’s increase in parking meter charges and parking meter enforcement hours. Then there are academics such as Amin Ghaziani, a sociologist and author of “There Goes the Gayborhood,” who attribute the changes in part to increased acceptance of LGBT people.

“I have tears in my eyes,” Block said today about the closing of his store. “It is sad. It was always a labor of love. I always loved that it put me in the community… The rent kept going up, the rent kept going up. It wasn’t profitable.”

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Shawn Thompson
Shawn Thompson
5 years ago

I think its so sad to have people chime in here and critique Mr Blocks store style, operations and all this other surface stuff. The point in all of this is another #lgbt biz is getting forced out of #weho by a landlord who is only thinking the bottom line and isn’t choosing to respect the identity and history in that area. And I am not saying nay land lord doesn’t or shouldn’t be able to make income off rent their property , but it also should be balanced with a respect to the community and specifically in this area… Read more »

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

@mike dunn, what part of the lease is up did you miss. we don’t own the building. i work there at the store. there is no rent control on commercial establishments. landlords are able to get much more rent from food and bars then regular retail its simple, no lease, no store, did you read the article?

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Jim , did you actually read my post? Commercial rent is not controlled and the owner of the property is allowed to raise it as high as he wishes according to what the market dictates. Mr. Block is not the only tenant in the building. It’s my opinion his business plan was successful 20 or 30 years ago but not any longer. If Mr. Block would channel his energy less on sleaze and more on conventional clothing that appeals to the gay community at a reasonable price his business just might thrive and survive. Since the owner of the property… Read more »

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago

Successful businesses survive while those that don’t cater to what the area desires will fail. The Abby is a good example of a business that embraced change and has survived. Another example is the Mother Lode. It’s the oldest bar in West Hollywood and still does a decent business. Block Party in my opinion is using a business plan that was popular thirty years ago but not any longer. Sleazy shorts only is not what the Gay Community embraces as a whole. Sure, it does a great business during the Gay Pride week-end and Halloween but how many people venture… Read more »

Dimitri Perparos
5 years ago

With $100,000,000. in “Reserve” are we supposed to believe the city of West Hollywood can’t issue incentives to gay owned businesses (or any small business for that matter), or do something about landlords raising rents to force people out unfairly??? Not to mention the parking nightmare. All for revenues! What does the City Council want?? Is the greed not going to stop until there’s over a Billion $$$ in reserve??? The council keeps tooting “We’re good! We’re good!! We’re a city that works!” Well then good. Stop with the gouging. Let it work & lighten up on people who deserve… Read more »

Lewis F
Lewis F
5 years ago

The way I see it is boystown used to be a slightly ‘low rent’ area, it’s like living in south gates, ‘sure, if you want to live here feel free’. So gays felt free to live there. Unfortunately for it’s physical location, it is highly desirable being centered between Santa Monica and downtown, so it is being gulped up by yuppies, et al. I’ve visited boystown for Halloween, stayed there while I worked at Cedars, and have had a good time. Most people are friendly, though there is a bit of tense anti-straight presence from the local gays which I… Read more »

Brian Holt
Brian Holt
5 years ago

Happy Block had the gumption to start a small business; never happy to see someone driven out. That said, it was schlocky and never more than an an ehh novelty store. Let’s get real here. Good news, Block is running for council – perhaps he can better direct his energies there. He has my vote. Block for the win.

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

While working at Block Party and having personal financial problems I made a mistake and stole money from the store. I continued to steal with a guilty conscience for a few months until he sent out a letter to all the employees asking one of us to step forward. The police had opened an investigation and I feared for my whole life and future. For nights I could not sleep until I stepped forward to confess. His response taught me so much about him. He said, ‘what can i do to help you’, ‘i wont press charges’, ‘lets get you… Read more »

Tony Villanueva
Tony Villanueva
5 years ago

This article illustrates perfectly why The Factory building site of “Studio One/Back Lot” the largest gay night club in the U.S. should be preserved as a landmark. If we don’t protect our history no one will. We don’t have that many markers that we can go back to. West Hollywood is changing.

Tony Rizzo
Tony Rizzo
5 years ago

Block Party closing is not a sign of the times it is a sign of the greed of the WEHO CITY COUNCIL! When they increased the parking hours and the price of parking as well as the sacrilege of meters working on Sunday, they put their hands in the pockets of every business in WEHO. They invite tourists to WEHO then toe their cares when they are not familiar with the parking restrictions. They basically are making money at the expense of the WEHO businesses who have all seen a decline in their patronage because people no longer have the… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
5 years ago

I’m sorry to see BLOCK PARTY go. It has become a WeHo landmark, fun, whimsical & even entertaining just to look in the windows. However I take serious exception to Larry’s statement “We can all go get married and be accepted anywhere these days.” There is serious opposition to same sex marriage in every state & all countries around the world. And don’t try to convince the victims of gay hate crimes. religious & political persecution that “we can be accepted anywhere these days.” Gay adults know better & the young LGBT communities must not be misguided into believing they… Read more »

luca d
luca d
5 years ago

for me, the place was never the same after hugo left…good luck larry.

Shawn Thompson
Shawn Thompson
5 years ago

@jimmy the blue eyes. So agree with your comments. On point 100% In the end this isn’t about exclusion of anyone or we cant be gay more places. To me and many others, we have TWO BLOCKS in one city that have a history of #lgbt focused biz. Also in a city that 40% #lgbt. Some have said to that well what about the other 60%, don’t they matter? Of course they do. And there is an entire city past these two blocks that is open for everything to be put into . But what other city in the USA… Read more »

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