Let’s Discuss: The Unending Evolution of WeHo’s Boystown

Boystown
WeHo’s Boystown gay nightlife and shopping district on Santa Monica Boulevard

If you deny the theory of evolution, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening in West Hollywood’s Boystown.

Chris Miller, owner of the gay video bar Revolver, is exploring the possibility of expanding by taking over The Block Party, the adjacent gay-themed clothing store, when its lease expires next month. (Larry Block, The Block Party’s owner, says he hopes to stay.)

The building that once housed Citibank on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente soon will house Rocco’s Tavern, a sports bar whose other locations get Yelp praise for their inexpensive pizzas and welcoming atmosphere for guys and gals on a date. By contrast, the now-closed Skynny Kitchen restaurant (which briefly replaced PhoCiti) soon will be replaced by the very gay Beaches Bar & Grill.

It’s still unclear whether Lisa Vanderpump will open her Tom Tom bar and restaurant in the space between the yet-to-open Bottega Louie and Emerson’s Locksmith once occupied by Chi Chi La Rue (the announcement of a liquor license request has been on the wall there since October, but TMZ says it will be on Robertson Boulevard.) Everyone in Boystown is waiting for the construction wall to come down and offer a look inside Bottega Louie, the restaurant that will replace the never-opened Cooley’s, which replaced Raffi’s Jewelers, Balliamos dance studio and Unicorn Alley, an “adult” store. What those living in the adjacent neighborhood are waiting for is whether Bottega Louie will be held to the same rules intended to have kept light and sound from Cooley’s from intruding on West Hollywood Park.

That construction wall across the façade of Motherlode, one of WeHo’s last gay dive bars? When it comes down you can expect to see a shiny new façade. Motherlode staffers say that will have no impact on the bar’s dark and gritty vibe, which is what attracts a crowd that wouldn’t be caught dead at P.U.M.P. next door, the gathering spot for reality TV fans.

It isn’t yet clear what is coming when Andrew Christian vacates its flagship clothing store at 8943 Santa Monica Blvd. The store is full of signs proclaiming its move to downtown Los Angeles, which it touts as the new gay mecca (although the staff admits no one knows where it will end up). If Andrew Christian doesn’t open a DTLA shop, the online retailer’s only brick and mortar location would be its Glendale factory shop. That would put Andrew Christian on pace with other retailers who are abandoning street stores for the internet.

By contrast there is Rounderbum, which lists Amazon as one of its prime vendors and has had no branded physical location. However, that gay underwear store (known for its marketing of briefs with padded butts and crotches) now is opening its flagship on the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente, replacing the now-bankrupt American Apparel.

When (and if) all is said and done, WeHo’s Boystown will have continued its evolution into a bar / nightlife district, adding what could be a total of four new bars and liquor-serving restaurants to the 12 currently on Santa Monica Boulevard between Robertson Boulevard on the west and Palm Avenue on the east. It will have lost a bank and six other neighborhood businesses. That’s likely to help West Hollywood  keep its ranking as the city with the most restaurant/bar liquor licenses per capita in all of Los Angeles County. Based on the number of restaurant/bar liquor licenses in 2015, WeHo by the Numbers reports that West Hollywood also ranks No. 1 in all of California in licenses per square mile, with 116.

So, what’s to discuss? At least two things are being debated on the streets:

1) Are all these changes — a straight sports bar, another high-end restaurant, the possible expansion of reality-TV start Lisa Vanderpump’s rule over WeHo — eroding the gay character of what has come to be known as Boystown? Does that really matter? And if it does, what can be done about it?

2) What will be the impact of the replacement of retailers, whether or not their products are gay-oriented, by alcohol-serving bars and restaurants? Will the city’s residents find themselves dealing with more drinking-related crime? Will the new gay-oriented bars like Beach’s and the expanded Revolver give WeHo an edge over increasingly gay-popular DTLA and its bars like Precinct and Redline and Mattachine and its DTLA Proud events?  Will all of that generate more revenue for a city that’s highly dependent on tourism?

Let’s discuss! And remember, this is a platform for sharing thoughts and suggestions by WEHOville readers about local issues (City Hall and the City Council members will be reading, albeit they are too shy to comment). So please keep comments focused on the issues and not criticism of particular individuals.


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J Simmons
Guest
J Simmons

@saveweho But we don’t have a “women’s town” nor anything inviting the rest of GBTQ Community. I’m 50yrs old and nobody calls me a boy. Look at the current climate. Roy Moore was a pedophile, with a fine line between sexual assault and sex with minors. We shouldn’t give any haters any fodder to equate gay with pedophilia … Boys has an underage interpretation. Living in WeHo, we know what it is. The huge number of visitors can get the wrong message about what WeHo nightlife offers for ALL. LGBTQ et al

lithe
Guest
lithe

It might be nice if the city tried to court other businesses besides bars into the area. Also, the thought of Lisa Vanderpump opening another place is scary. B/c her restaurants/bars are on reality TV, she attracts car loads of screaming 20-something girls from West Covina who want to go there and meet their fave reality stars from the show. I found it disturbing when I would wait on Robertson before an AA meeting w/ a group of gay gays and have these large groups of 20-something straight women on their way to Sur or Pump start making cat calls… Read more »

SaveWeho
Guest
SaveWeho

@J Simmons. Boys, Girls, etc is a general reference. Has nothing to do with the age of someone. Now if you want argue the term because it only refers to gay men instead of the entire LGBT community, ok. But the term BOYSTOWN is used all over. We’re not the only area that has one. LGBT film festivals often have a “Boys Centerpiece” and “Girls Centerpiece” film. You’re being ridiculous.

J Simmons
Guest
J Simmons

I don’t accept the use of “Boys town” to reference the busy mostly gay nightlife. GLTQ et all. Most of the establishments sell alcohol, so “boys” aren’t allowed. ADULTS (men, women and the whole community of NOT JUST BOYS provide the majority money spent to support these businesses. WITH THE GLUT OF SEXUAL CHARGES BEING MADE EVERYWHERE (and of course the City of West Hollywood has paid out more than most per capita, to settle sexual improprieties against those in power in weho) We need to work harder to dispel the common belief gay equates to pedophilia, and calling a… Read more »

JJ
Guest
JJ

Jonathan said it best.

SaveWeho
Guest
SaveWeho

I cant say I’m thrilled about the change from a smaller gay area to a more expensive gay enclave…but times change and so will Weho. Most parts of the city have changed. Mortar stores are dying everywhere and they were always going in and out of business back in the 90s too. I dont mind the new restaurants and bars…I just wish they catered more to the gay community. I’ll be happy when that place next to the Factory is gone which brings in a non-gay element which in turns creates more violence and issues. We’ve opened our doors to… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Tom, WeHo Boy’s comment about Block Party being a “necessity” might not be true, but it does make me a little sad that it might go out of business because of the change in culture, and cost of doing business. I agree with his sentiments. I came here as a young adult, and it was nice to hang out in a place that didn’t just cater to people of drinking age (hence, my earlier comment about the youth coffee shop). That part of West Hollywood felt like a safe, inviting place for gay people of all ages. There was more… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Businesses survive and fail because customers are the ones who vote with their feet and their money. Life changes and evolves as people’s needs and desires shift with the times. This has been going on in every city around the world since the dawn of commercialization. Of course the city of West Hollywood is not the same as it was 40 years ago. Why on earth would it be? Yes it’s sad to lose some of our past, but it happens naturally. Let’s embrace all futures, whatever they may be!

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

WeHoBoy: Block Party is a “necessity” and “sells things all the gays need”—–thanks for huge belly laughs!!!!!!

WeHo Boy
Guest
WeHo Boy

I don’t agree when people say WeHo is only about the ”NightLife” … being a closeted Gay for a long time, this small ”Gay Bubble” located in Santa Monica Blvd has been an Amazing paradise to me, helping me come in terms with myself and also meet new people. Even during the day is refreshing to see all the gays walking around together, holding hands, and being themselves… i’m from another country, originally, and you don’t normally see that, and I think, after being here for too long, people forget that in other cities and countries people will treat and… Read more »

C.R.
Guest
C.R.

Nothing to whine about here. For years now, the only reason to live in WeHo due to how expensive it continued to become, is to be close to the nightlife element. Brick and mortar retail is dying, there’s nothing you can do about that. There are other walkable neighborhoods in L.A. if you aren’t into nightlife. I fully support all the new restaurant and drinking establishments, alternatives there are always great and force the bars, at least, to be more competitive for customers.

Brad
Guest
Brad

If all these bars gone wild then how many more police officers are being assigned to handle the area? It is sad that there are so many bar permits being issued that other stores lose out and the landlords win. Follow the money Developers win. Landlords win. Community loses.