WeHo’s The Block Party Is Closing (This Time for Real)

The Block Party, with a sign in its window in 2016 announcing that it isn’t closing.

Say goodbye (this time for real) to “the gayest store on earth.”

Larry Block, owner of The Block Party, confirmed today that he will be closing the store after Chris Miller, owner of the adjacent Revolver bar, obtains the permits and approvals he needs to expand into The Block Party space.

The Block Party, located at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd., has become somewhat of an icon in West Hollywood’s Boystown gay nightlife district. Open until 2 a.m., the store attracts both gay men and heterosexual customers with its wide variety of apparel, including somewhat risqué men’s underwear, as well as cigarettes and “poppers,” which are small vials of alkyl nitrite used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure.

Larry Block
Larry Block.

Block opened The Block Party in October 2009, replacing A Different Light, the famous LGBT bookstore, which opened its West Hollywood location in 1990 and closed in January 2009. Block announced in 2015 that his lease had expired and would not be renewed, which spurred another in a continuing series of debates about changes in the Boystown area and whether it will survive as a gay-centric nightlife and shopping district. However in January 2016, Block announced that his landlord had renewed his lease.

This time Block said he negotiated with his landlord in an effort to stay in the current location. But Miller, he said, has a right of first refusal to lease the space when Block’s contract expired, which it will do at the end of this month.

Block said his store has become very successful recently, generating revenue of over $1 million a year, up substantially from only $500,000 a year a few years ago.

Block said he is not in a hurry to leave. “I will stay as long as Chris allows us to stay there,” he said. “I’m mitigating his expenses while he spends time getting his permits.” Block said he expects that will be in June of next year.

Revolver, at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard at Larrabee. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

While Block told WEHOville that he fantasizes about retiring to the desert as he approached the age of 59, he also conceded that he has his eye on the Circus of Books. Circus of Books, another gay community icon, is at the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Jolla. The store sells books and magazines and adult videos aimed at gay men and became famous decades ago as a place where gay men could cruise one another. In March 2016, Karen and Barry Mason, its owners for more than 30 years, said they were considering closing the store.

Block said he also is looking at retail space in Palm Springs and also at a space near the former Aaardvarks vintage clothing store at 7579 Melrose Ave.

Block said his first choice Circus of Books, which he envisions turning into a version of his Block Party clothing store and adding a coffee bar. Block said the Masons have talked with him but haven’t reached a deal.

Block said that if The Block Party is replaced he’s “really glad it’s Revolver. The last thing I would want is to have to close the store and have some Melrose boutique move into the space.”

Chris Miller said that moving into The Block Party space would not greatly expand the area for Revolver’s customers because he will have to move the existing downstairs bathrooms at Revolver to the main floor to make them ADA compliant.  However, Miller said, it will allow him to nearly double the outdoor patio space.  Miller said that is fine with him because he doesn’t want “to lose the great allure of this atmosphere” of Revolver.

Miller said that neither he nor Block need to own their businesses or expand them to have “a financially or mentally healthy life.  We’re doing it because it’s what we love.”

Revolver, which takes its name from its revolving door, initially opened in 1982, embracing the video bar craze fostered by MTV, which had launched two years earlier. It featured a large video screen above the bar and a small back bar. And it usually was packed.

But Revolver’s then owners encountered financial difficulties and went out of business in 2004. Trip Wilmot, a former Wall Street investment official, opened East/West bar in the space in 2005. An initial success, business slumped in 2011 because of the recession. Faced with landlord Golden West’s plan to almost double the monthly rent to $16,000, Wilmot closed East/West. West Hollywood was left without an iconic video bar like Side Tracks in Chicago or The Midnight Sun in San Francisco.

The current Revolver was opened in October 2011 by  Miller and his then business partner, Alfredo Diaz. By all accounts it has been a success, with the size of the crowds one reason Miller said he feels the need to expand the space to accommodate the larger crowds.


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Jacques
Guest
Jacques

Our favorite place to shop and will gladly travel to wherever you go.

Aida
Guest
Aida

I’ve known Larry for years and I’m proud to call him my friend. I hate to see Block Party close as I think it’s a very unique and fun place to shop. I wish Larry the best of luck wherever he reopens Block Party but he will be greatly missed at his present location.

Howard
Guest
Howard

My sunday mornings often began with a walk from Sunset to Santa Monica to stop in at Block Party. I’m too old for the nightlife but and that was kind of my only stop – when friends come to town we went there. How many bars and pizza places do we need?

kab1200
Guest
kab1200

Very often, when a busy bar or restaurant expands, it is is the kiss of death for that business. I don’t see the Revolver as needing more room, even when it is packed. Sounds like a really bad idea to me.

Part time employee
Guest
Part time employee

@cr – business is great @ the block party shop – did you miss the point in the article about right of first refusal on a lease renewal? Or how many liquor permits are issued that are forcing these conversions. I’m working at the shop and we are busy as heck all the time. That storyline about the decline of retail is better used for another shop in another part of town.

Randy
Guest
Randy

C.R., I partially agree with you, however, I don’t buy clothes online. I like to try them on. I don’t think I’m in a minority with that one. I know times are changing, but what’s really happening here is that part of Santa Monica Blvd. is no longer an affordable place to do business, unless you sell copious amounts of alcohol. It’s the lease costs that are putting these places out of business. There is still a market for people buying clothes in a store. And there is still a market for clothes that appeal to gay men. LASC, for… Read more »

C.R.
Guest
C.R.

So to sum things up, yet again, brick and mortar retail is becoming a thing of the past more and more EVERYWHERE, not just in WeHo and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Anything I could shop for at Block Party I could find online cheaper, that’s why I never bought anything there. The bars are the primary draw for that part of WeHo, and have been for a long time now. Complaining about this is ridiculous. If you don’t like it, move to another walkable neighborhood in L.A. County, there are numerous others that are nice AND… Read more »

Keep Calm
Guest
Keep Calm

@ Shawn Thompson: Your argument doesn’t make a bit of sense. Why not celebrate Larry Block in the possibility that he may create a new neighborhood energy around Circus of Books, if that is his intention, or wherever he chooses to land. Please be openminded and flexible. You can’t keep beating the same horse to death.

JR
Guest
JR

Its pretty sad to watch the destruction of downtown greater Weho.. How did this all happen so fast with all these bars clustered together and no room for anything else? Im 10 years sober and it seems like there is nothing left for me in this city. The only culture the city is promoting is drinking.

Wehogigio
Guest
Wehogigio

If you all think that the bars are taking over Boystown and replacing retail……wait til the pot shop people get in the action.

There will be nothing left except bars, pot shops.

Victor
Guest
Victor

Total downer. Another historic WeHo institution gone. For what, a big tv and more drinking. I enjoyed the energy of the shop, friendly staff and always fair pricing. As a person born in West Hollywood it’s crazy to see what this city is becoming. I think the city council should all be replaced.

Shawn Thompson
Guest
Shawn Thompson

I missed a few words in my last post. If you know #weho politics and the two campaigns Larry ran you will get it…

All that shilling for the John’s that took the gay out of #weho in the last election, and Larry who in the past challenged those same faces in the places on city council (who ran a campaign twice of Block for the people) Gets kicked off the Block. Such is #weho pay for play. big donations is how you stay on the block or get to build big, or a new billboard.