Opinion: ABC’s Decision to Close Micky’s for 30 Days Doesn’t Reflect West Hollywood Norms

First of all, I make no apologies. The history of the harassment of the gay bars in California is long and well documented. The ABC department and local police departments worked in tandem from Prohibition to current times to systematically harass, intimidate and threaten both gay bar bar owners and their patrons. Sometimes the police raids were instigated by the ABC and sometimes local police departments.

Micky's West HollywoodPrior to the 1960s openly LGBT people were forbidden to hold liquor licenses as they were considered of “poor moral character.” Prior to the 1970s, cross dressing was forbidden, dancing by same-sex couples was out, lesbians were asked to show their underwear to police and ABC agents to prove they weren’t cross dressing. Photos were taken of patrons and, if possible, their employers were notified if they could be found. Teachers were especially vulnerable as it was perfectly legal to fire them for “moral compromise.”

Halloween, with all its costumes, was one of the only days when cross dressing was allowed. Our upcoming Halloween celebration didn’t begin as a result of city planning and corporate sponsorships. It began as an act of defiance to state and local officials who otherwise banned cross dressing.

I started in the gay bar business in the 1970s. ABC agents and the LAPD routinely raided my bar in the San Fernando Valley. They would conduct these raids on a Saturday night at midnight checking IDs, looking for fruit flies in liquor bottles, and checking for signs of operating a “disorderly house.” In my case I would get shoved up against the bar, flashlights in my face while they looked at my liquor license. I have previously called and continue to call on our legislature to conduct state hearings on the misdeeds of the ABC , apologize to the LGBT community and pay reparations to those whose lives were ruined.

Micky’s current license suspension is based on lewd conduct laws that haven’t changed since the 1970s, although certainly cultural norms have. Nude entertainment including photos and other depiction of nudity is forbidden. The statute of David could get one’s license suspension, as could the images on the screens of some customers’ cell phones. Would the state have bar owners stand over every customer’s cell phone to look for and prohibit penis pics? These standards should be determined on a local basis. If San Francisco and West Hollywood want different standards than West Covina and Santa Clarita, those communities should have that choice. Sexual freedom is still important to the LGBT community. It, along with many other things, defines who we are.

The ABC department in our case  had the leeway to levy a fine instead of suspending our license and forcing us to close . As our case went up though the courts (by the way, the judges for the appeals board are “recommended by the department ” to the Governor, a recommendation that he rubber stamps) several of the counts were dropped, and the department was severely criticized for “authorized criminality” in the use of an agent in entrapment.

Still the dept held to its 30-day suspension . The result is nearly 50 people are out of work, suppliers are losing business , our surrounding businesses are suffering and thousands of dollars in sales tax is lost.

We tried to mitigate the impact on our employees by seeking a delay of 60 days to set up employment funding but could not get help from people with the power to intervene in state matters. I appealed to Assemblymember Richard Bloom. His deputy went over the case with him and said he felt the situation was handled appropriately by the ABC. When asked about a delay of 60 days for the help with employee matters, that too was refused. Elected state officials intercede every day in matters that affect their districts. I wonder, if it had been a builder’s issue or a celebrity requesting a rush of a state license, if the Assembly member would have responded in the same matter. The fact is they could have acted and refused to do so. I hope that our LGBT community starts asking questions the next time we are asked to rubber stamp a candidate for state office.

The City Council in West Hollywood has little jurisdiction in matters such as these, but Council members have tremendous influence when it comes to intervening with elected state officials. City Councilmember John Duran immediately notified City Manager Paul Arevalo and Assemblymember Richard Bloom of the situation. Newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister had letters prepared for Bloom, State Senator Ben Allen, and the chairman of the California Assembly. The other three council members were aware of the situation but remained, and still remain, silent.

What’s ahead for Mickys? We may now be the longest running LGBT bar in the Los Angeles metro region. We’ve weathered harassment , earthquakes and yes a devastating fire, and we are still here. All of our staff continues to thank everyone for their tremendous support. Please wear a little extra sparkle this Halloween. We will see you there.

Michael Niemeyer is the owner of Micky’s, the popular gay bar on Santa Monica Boulevard that was closed for 30 days by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control department for lewd behavior.


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BlueEyedBoy
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BlueEyedBoy

I have followed the discussion, J.V., and agree that no one is above the law, and I don’t believe gays deserve special exemptions just for being gay. But there is clearly selective enforcement, just as there is discrimination in what the laws are (i.e., exposure of breasts vs penises, etc).

There is no need to be condescending. You could have made your point just as well without being so.

BlueEyedBoy
Guest
BlueEyedBoy

You’re absolutely right, Oliver, and you said it very well! Three or four years ago I went to a bar on Sunset with straight friends. The girl strippers there were all over me in a way that no gay male dancers here in BoysTown have ever been, nor that I have ever seen. I not only saw vaginas there, but my genitals were groped. The more disinterested I appeared, the more aggressive they got. I’m sure I am not the only guy they had ever behaved that way toward, because I am not that special. I did join my friend… Read more »

J.V.
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J.V.

Other than a very obvious comparison here, BlueEyedBoy, what’s your point about complying with the law? No one said female strip clubs are exempt. But we’ve been talking about Micky’s here. Are you not paying attention? If your experiences in Micky’s were on the tame side, good for you. But I and others saw different things, and we’re merely recounting that, and saying that the law is the law, and we don’t feel that gays or Micky’s or anyone else is being “targeted.” Rather, many gays seem to feel the deserve special laws and exemptions just because they’re gay. If… Read more »

Randy
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Randy

Oliver, you make some good points, however, regarding “2 for 1” drink specials, Gym Bar has that every weekday, until 9 PM. I believe that Kitchen 24 does as well. And the Bayou has some sort of special on weekdays (or maybe its just cheap to drink there).

Oliver.
Guest
Oliver.

Giving away free alcohol: This is 2:1 drinks or shot boys walking around with shots for tips. Every party bar and club in Los Angeles offers 2:1, but the bars in WeHo don’t cuz it’s against their law, and when it comes down to it…a technical reason that can be used when needed to shut a place down. You do notice that the bars in WeHo DO NOT OFFER 2:1 anymore, well Fiesta Cantina does, but that owner also owns other establishments that cater to a more hetero crowd-can’t really shut down the gay establ. and keep the straight establ.… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Glenn, yes, he is, and he can’t seem to discuss something while maintaining a sense of decorum, such as calling me “stupid,” just because he disagrees with me. God help him if he were to ever visit a gay village in a European city.

Glenn
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Glenn

JV, you are over reacting and over reaching.

Randy
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Randy

Yes, Glenn. Please no more “all caps.” Regarding J.V.’s comment, “pornographic thing on the patio of Micky’s IN BROAD DAYLIGHT on a Sunday afternoon…” what does that mean, exactly? Exposure of genitals? Butt? I think we all know that is highly unlikely (right there on the patio?), and I’m going to assume that J.V. is referring to covered go-go dancer’s as being “pornographic.” If that is the case, his hang-ups have absolutely nothing to do with the penalties levied against Micky’s, as that isn’t against the law. And if we are going to criticize Micky’s for doing such a “pornographic… Read more »

J.V.
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J.V.

If “pornographic” was too strong a word, forgive me. From the bus stop on the opposite side of the street from Micky’s, I’ve seen go-go dancers in G-strings on the patio, standing high and proud on a box or table or something grinding and getting felt-up in the broad, plentiful daylight of 5 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, as traffic stood stopped at the SMB/San Vicente traffic light, and all motorists (and their kids) got an eyeful, and some parents in those cars likely blushed and hoped their kids either didn’t notice or didn’t ask. Again, why can’t the management… Read more »

Glenn
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Glenn

A few posters on this comment thread need to get a room… for themselves. They are decrying a promiscuous state of affairs that seem to be going on a bit more in their own heads than reality. Just keep it real, folks. We are not talking about an public orgy. Just take a look at the all caps and exclusive words like any and always and knowingly and, the Good Lord forgive, broad daylight. Just keep it real. Thanks for the perspective Michael. Good luck to your business and our entire community. Do I have to all cap “entire”?

Randy
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Randy

Zam, I agree. That was really well put.

Zam Loomstein
Guest

Michael, let me say that this closure is wrong, period. This is especially true for your bar based on my observations of what goes on at every gay venue in town averaging 4 nights a week over the past decade. The fact that two gay owned bars within 1/2 mile of each other in such a short time span is wrong. These closures are clearly symptomatic of an ongoing culture of homophobia and corruption within the ABC. I wrote an overly verbose outline of my beliefs as to why this happened in a comment on the last article discussing this… Read more »

J.V.
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J.V.

In response to Zam’s Point #4: I’ve seen go-go boys doing their pornographic thing on the patio of Micky’s IN BROAD DAYLIGHT on a Sunday afternoon. You seem to feel this is fine, and that “we” (the gay community) can claim that section of Santa Monica Blvd. as our own, and every other resident of WeHo and LA be damned – that if they don’t want to see our go-go boys breaking current law in our bars, then they should drive out of their way on other streets through the terrible east-west LA traffic to avoid having to look at… Read more »

Ahollywoodicon
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Ahollywoodicon

Well said! You are so right! Btw I haven’t seen it mentioned that a number of violations against operators of Bars, Clubs, etc come from “reporting” done by their own competitors, neighbors, and employees AND NOT the ABC alone. In other words – it’s my bet that the ABC was tipped off or received a complaint by someone whose GAY. Oh my! How bout that? Even in the GAY community there is reverse discrimination occurring against each other every single day. OUR GAY culture is NOT immune to inflicting BIAS and BULLYING against ourselves and others in our community.

Ahollywoodicon
Guest
Ahollywoodicon

Corruption in the way the ABC and law enforcement “regulate” conduct? Do you fully comprehend that these violations are a result of action that is pursuiant to legally binding CONDITONAL USE PERMITS? There’s NO bar in town GAY OR STRAIGHT that doesn’t have to abide by LAWS AND RULES as a condition to operate. And I might add there isn’t a bar or restaurant bar owner that loathes the ABC, the City of West Hollywood, City of Los Angeles or any other governing body that imposes restrictions and rules as a CONDITION TO OPERATE. That’s called simply THE COST OF… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

@ahollywoodicon, you don’t need to “all caps” for me to understand. I still don’t understand why you’d pick that example as your comparison. “I’m far more worried about people getting these fines and it nearly bankrupting people on fixed incomes than hearing you opining about getting “caught” with your pants down,” you said. Was the “bankrupting people” meant as sarcasm? In other words, are you really more concerned about the cost of these tickets to citizens vs. the reduction of collisions in intersections? I get that Micky’s broke the law … maybe you should pick a different example to compare… Read more »

Bob Evans
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Bob Evans

Close the sticking swindling churches down…. not gay bars.