A new (fancy) life for Silver Lake’s Black Cat Tavern

In the same Silver Lake space that only last year hosted Spanish-language drag shows,  sleek chandeliers now dangle from an ornate ceiling in a room with dark-wood paneling and dark-green banquettes. Welcome to The Black Cat, a new Sunset Junction bar and restaurant that has adopted the name of an old bar that operated in the same space more 40 years ago and played an important role in the gay rights movement.  Tonight, the owners of the new Black Cat hosted a sneak peak of the yet-to-open Sunset Boulevard nightspot that raises the opulence factor among Sunset Junction bars and restaurants.

It was only a year ago that the same space was home to Le Barcito, a Gay Latino bar that opened several years after the original Black Cat Tavern closed.  In 2009, the L.A. Weekly named Le Barcito as Best Club the  Black Cat Dragged In.  “Things change,” said Silver Lake resident and activist Wes Joe, who advised the new bar owners of the Black Cat’s historic significance.

In 1967, LAPD officers beat and arrested gay patrons at the Black Cat, triggering one of the nation’s first gay rights demonstrations. In 2008, the city declared the building a historic landmark.  While the Black Cat closed and the name of the bar changed,  a smiling image of a black cat – a hold over from the old bar – still hangs over the front of the building.

“It’s amazing history,” said Black Cat owner Charlie Conrad, who also owns the Village Idiot on Melrose. Conrad, who lives in Silver Lake, said he became aware of the bar’s history as he was looking into leasing the space.  In addition to adopting the Black Cat name, the new bar will also feature historic photos and display. “We want to embrace that,” Conrad said of the bar’s history. “Let’s not forget it.”

Conrad declined to say when the new Black Cat would officially open. But he indicated he was working on opening another business in the vacant laundry mat next door.

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  1. Vomit Gag Vomit Gag…. THIS IS SOOOO SAD…. Lebarcito was amazing gay DIVE bar…. such a piece of the hood…. look at this lame sterile washed out place. Silver Lake is ruined over and over again… where will the gays fix up next that the yuppies and OMG “hipsters” will run over and destroy?? This make over looks truly like … lame. But let me twirl my mustache up on the side, throw on some plaid pants and a lame hat from macys….. and go and be super cool there….. Oh look they have wine already poured already….. Sheeezzzz if they only knew what went on RIGHT were they are standing and smiling so prim and properly ….

    • If you read the article, it says they do know what happened there. I’ve lived two blocks away from there for 30 years, and I’m glad they’re going to reopen as The Black Cat. We deserve more than just a neighborhood dive. I for one will be a happy patron once they open.

    • What is sad, billy, is your inability to accept change. I’d bet dollars to dough nuts that you voted for a guy with “change” right in his slogan four years ago… Irony?

      I think you’ll be in the minority on this one…

    • Hey Bill
      If you honestly believe that ” silver lake is ruined over and over again “… you are quite free to move the hell out of here

    • Ahmen! Pray for recession before it’s all gone…Oops to late.

    • When will “the gays” learn that if we want to maintain DIVE culture, we need to quit cleaning up downmarket neighborhoods and making them desirable places for hipsters to invade? Gay culture in the Castro is watered down, SOMA is becoming so, Laguna Beach disintegrated, WeHo may as well be gated – do we ever learn? Or is it enough to have Grindr and not have to shell out for food and drinks and mix with the arrivistes? We get what we pay for.

    • I TOTALLY agree with Billy. It’s vile what has happened to the neighborhood created by gays and Latino families. There were also artists who WERE starving, not these cliquey “trustafarian” hipsters who pretend to be. They may look like hell, but they’re rolling in dough (and breed like crazy, there are babies everywhere).
      The owner of the Black Cat didn’t give a DAMN about gay people once he opened up and in fact the places entire significance was dismissed as “oh, some dive bar” by a waiter when asked what it used to be. And after about 85 YEARS of bus riders having shelter under that little stretch of roof while waiting for the bus, the owner puts “outdoor” fencing and now everyone will have to stand in the rain next winter.

      We LOVED each other in this neighborhood. The humble Latino families and gays had a very special camaraderie spending so many decades together. The Sunset Junction was FOR US, because at first there was friction. It brought us together. We were all low income and were FINE WITH IT. The hideous, pretentious Aryan baby breeding, vegan obsessed unicycle riding invasion of wealthy bearded hipsters is boring at best. Zero originality. They don’t give a DAMN about our history. The space that once held Le Barcito was DECLARED a gay historic landmark in 2008. Who knew it would be gutted and straight a few years later.

      The people who rushed in like vultures during this recession, would NEVER have come this far east before. It was “just “fags and Miexicans” to them. Silverlake was a joke. Now it’s like something out of Sex and the City. Very, very sad. Fortunately, many of us had rent control (rents are sky high now for newcomers). We didn’t NEED a “clean up” or this gross gentrification.

      And to the person who suggested this Billy guy leave…YOU leave. Undoubtedly he was here first and a part of the atmosphere we all had and cherished before this “ethnic cleansing” elitist mentality you are all so proud of, came along.

  2. Looks beautiful to me. I look forward to checking the place out when it officially opens. Thank you for investing in our community.

  3. Billy, I think you’ve officially upstaged yourself here.

    • Well you would haha I understand you points…. its an opinion and I understand if some people dont agree, im not asking them too.

  4. I think it’s “laundromat”, not laundry mat…unless it’s a small place with one mat in front of a washer…
    (” laundromats (from the genericized trademark of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation)[1] or washaterias. George Edward Pendray created the word “laundromat” for Westinghouse.[1]” wiki)

    There is, however, a ‘Laundry Mat’ at 3116 N Broadway, LA 90031 but I don’t think that’s any where close to the Black Cat.

  5. A new fancy life with new fancy obnoxious people?

  6. Looks great. Like Musso’s East.

  7. Gettysburg has great a historical legacy. The Mall in Washington DC has a great historical legacy. The Black Cat in Silver lake……… It has history, but is it amazing? Not to me. Not when we reflect on what else was transpiring in the nation at that time. Look it up youth.

  8. Sounds like this would b the next Craigslist hook up spot.lol..Hey I thought black cats were bad luck oh well I guess u can reverse it with a great encounter..The black cat looks like Felix the cat someone will sue over that I bet..I hope this place host people friendly.attract the good I’ll b there soon but with my black dog…

  9. I need a bj…..ease the drama here

  10. And “sleek chandeliers” are the opposite of a “Spanish-language drag bar”?

    Please keep your bias out of restaurant reporting.

  11. You people are kind of hating hard here on Billy. He’s speaking out frustration at a demographic shift in the community. This was a great bar and venue that I went to for years. While there seems to be lots of gastropubs serving all the latest trends in food, popping up all over this hood it’s not quite as easy to go back and create a dive-y bar and the strong community following Le Barcito represented in the community. This bar’s absence is being felt by many – it was a unique place to stop by and grab a drink. With the recent closing of The Otherside and the closing of Le Bar several years back and the many other gay bars that have closed in the area – the local gay community continues to take a hit as far as community spaces to gather in the area. I guess all the “gay-friendly” artists in the area aren’t really savy to the unique needs that come from gay men having a public space to gather and socialize. Guess we don’t need that since I have “Grinder” right? Our community continues to get shoved aside to our new online ghetto. That bars wasn’t just about hooking up – it provided a very real sense of gay space for many people. The new spot… guess we’ll see, might be good food and a fun place but it won’t be Le Barcito and the Sunset Junction is less for it.

    • VERY well said… Its is merely my opinion and you augmented my feelings very nicely It was a local spot for so many years… very sad its gone. This place may be nice, just like all the new nice places. But LeBarcito did not diminish the neighborhood, so its not a new investment in the hood, its just new.

  12. to heck with new I loved my old divey neighborhood. I even liked the old Silverlake. now I just drive through, trendy dont interest me.

  13. Seriously, we are supposed to move and “get the hell out of here” because we find what has happened to our neighborhood sad. Well I feel sorry that you missed the glory days. It was a great community-minded place–a truly diverse neighborhood where you could live on the cheap as a musician or artist. I never stop in Silverlake anymore either (yes it used to be one word) when I’m headed home to Echo Park. Not that Echo Park hasn’t changed…

  14. Change is the only constant in L.A., sadly…but it’s what makes us great. But I get the drift as a longtime resident. It’s a thin line between stuff that gets cleaned up and is enjoyed by the neighborhood, and stuff that’s put together to attract a crowd. You’ll see when you walk in…if you walk in…if it’s a place that you can stand. It sucks to have a neighborhood fill up with places you don’t like…but its happened to every inch of this town more than once.

    Eat your veggies, get some exercise and live long enough to wait it out. And be thankful that the neighborhood, raised on close to 100 years of living on the edges of mainstream culture, isn’t nice enough to really, truly change. As long as we don’t have the lots for McMansions, we’ll be fine. My Grandfather was a dirty hipster when he shacked up with some chick on Westerly in the 20’s. But the point is good…maybe the black cat, or the Friendship on Rustic Canyon, or hell even that crazy piano bar on Hyperion were worth fighting for…but I didn’t see anyone throwing themselves on the bulldozers. So for now, this is what we’ve got.

  15. Well it does look interesting inside. Never saw it prior. What strikes me is how well…lit the place looks in that picture. I can only imagine that when its really open that the level of light will be lowered. I think of dive bars as dark, smelling of stale beer and filled with regulars. I am learning that you can’t hold on to history as much as you’d like. If that was the case, LA would look more like the streets of the Rockford Files when there wasn’t a Starbucks in sight. Give it a chance, make it YOUR dive bar.

  16. It’s very simple, all these spaces are owned by people and its their right to lease them to who they like (assuming zoning compliance) and its the right of the proprietors to create the space they want. Then the free will of the hood takes over, and it works, or not. If either Le Bar were still viable they’d still be around, as would The Score downtown, etc. Times and neighborhoods change in cities, no use bemoaning it. Oh, and nobody “stole” cheap housing from artists in SL, unless you assume that landlords are slaves working for artist tenants. And the term is loosely used on the eastside anyway as often as not it means “lazy and broke but I made this abstract sculpture out of a mattress I found”.

  17. Bring back Seafood Bay!!

  18. The most irritatingly self-styled ‘Hipster’ripoff I have encountered.

    My “bartender” was pretty (but not as much as she seemed to think). However, she seemed very offended that she was expected to deal with customers. It was all beneath her . . .

    Oh, yeah, and she didn’t know how to make my basic, classic cocktail (Negroni) . . . and then poured a two-ounce serving that only half-filled the bogus, diminutive coup-style glass (more of a Libby flute). The next time I need a two-ounce shot, I’ll order a shot.

    Also, thanks for the fifteen dollar beer from a second-rate local brewery in San Diego.

    Oh, yeah, and she was really – really – rude.

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