Monday, October 24, 2016

Storefront Report: Silver Lake gay club gets ready for its last dance

Silver Lake, gay bar

The Go-Go dancers are going away at MJ’s Bar as the Silver Lake gay nightspot prepares to shut down at the end of the month.  It’s not clear what will replace MJ’s but it will become the third Silver Lake gay bar to close within the last three years.

The upcoming closure was announced on MJ’s Facebook page with news of “MJ’s Final Dance Party Ever!!!” on March 29.   An employee earlier this month said workers were informed that the Hyperion Avenue bar was closing at the end of March but had no further details.  Some patrons have been told that MJ’s will be replaced by a restaurant and will no longer be a gay bar but that could not be confirmed. Bar owner Anthony Lopez has not responded to email requests for comment.

Silver Lake was once home to numerous bars, clubs, restaurants and shops that catered primarily to gays. But many of those establishments have closed over the years as the neighborhood has gentrified and the gay community has assimilated. In June 2012, The Other Side, a gay piano bar also located on Hyperion, closed in June 2012 and became Hyperion Public, which caters to a mixed crowd. In 2011, Le Barcito, a Sunset Junction bar that had been a magnet for gay Latinos with Spanish-language drag shows, closed and was replaced by the Black Cat.

The new Black Cat  is named after a gay bar that occupied the same space  in 1967 when  the LAPD arrested several men for kissing, triggering one of the nation’s first gay-right protests.

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  1. Say it ain’t so… Sooo sad, soo many fun nights here – but the last few months it just hasn’t been getting the crowds it once was. Foam parties were always insanely fun. Still been trying to support it when I can though. Def a devastating blow to the Silverlake gay nightlife scene though. So Akbar is it for dancing now? One night a month at Los Globos? Damn Grinder and online apps ruining the gay bar scene.

    • Grahm Wellington

      Sorry to hear about any business closing, but I see this as social progress. “Gay Bars” aren’t getting as much action as before because gay people are accepted more into society now and don’t feel they have to live in a bubble. Now most restaurants and bars can be “gay bars” and that’s a good thing.

      • Agreed as so much as there is definitely a feeling of acceptance throughout the area that is a welcome evolution. But gay spaces are still as important as ever. Lots of my gay friends feel more isolated and alone then ever before. Many people, in all demographics can relate of course. And sure we feel welcomed and accepted going out in the community now but gastropubs like The Black Cat and Hyperion Public do not offer the same shared space for male camaraderie that was once felt in the by many at this club. Sure gyms continue to allow a meeting of the gays, but not all gays go to the gym. And bars, clubs and alcohol provided an important social lubricant at times, for many that are still struggling with their identity. One cannot underestimate the importance of a communal gathering space for gay individuals to meet, identify one another publicly and socialize in a same-sex positive space. Dancing is very much a ritual, akin to a religious experience/rite-of-passage for many (not saying all) in the gay community. These ongoing closures of gay clubs – are akin to the rapid closing of all the churches of a certain denomination in any another community. Times may be changing but it is sad and a sentiment shared quietly by many in the gay community.

        • There’s always Griffith Park.

          • Good crack at a low blow there, James. This isn’t the 90’s and gay men don’t need to hide in the bushes anymore.

          • you said “crack” and “low blow” …

          • Listen, Moody, before you start taking offense where none was meant, you should realize that there are plenty of gay cruisers in Griffith Park to this day. I’m a straight guy, and nearly every weekend (and whenever I have a day off, which has been quite often this year), I pick up a coffee and some El Pollo Loco, then drive to Griffith Park to sit in my car, listen to KPCC, eat lunch, and read the newspaper. I’ve had cars pull up across from me or next to me with guys who make eye contact at me or nod at me. I usually shake my head and return my eyes to my newspaper and they drive off a short time later. This has happened a handful of times in just the last year. I’m not imagining this, and I’m not mistaking an innocuous “hello” for a come-on. I’ve come to realize that when I sit in my parked car in certain spots in Griffith Park, I must be giving out mixed messages to other men.

          • There are appropriate places for everything, James. I wouldn’t encourage a coming of age gay man to illegally cruise in a public park any more than I’d encourage you to eat your El Pollo Loco at a gay nightclub. And I hope you’re not littering!

          • Don’t worry, Moody, I would never toss my salad in the park. 🙂

          • Griffth park

    • Don’t blame apps for bar closing. So many gay men chose to take the easier route,since you really don’t have to be honest about who you really are.

  2. I heard that it has been bought by Armenians to turn into a restaurant. Such a shame.. And to those who try to explain away how the gay bars are no longer bringing in the crowds because we are so assimilated might want to go the the Eagle, Faultline or Akbar on weekends…. MJs was mismanaged plain and simple by trying to please all people so that it ended up losing it’s identity as a gay man’s bar and becoming a. Drag/Piano/Foam/Arab/Trans/Mex you name it bar.

  3. I’m a gay San Franciscan who is considering a move to LA (and specifically Silver Lake), and although I’ve never been to MJs I’m very sad about this for all the same reasons chaderik outlines above. Assimilation and apps do NOT replace the gay bar experience, especially for people who aren’t purely looking to hook up. I used to shun the “gay community” when I was younger–it all felt like it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t really that into dancing, etc.–and I had my day of reckoning in my late 20s when I realized just how isolated and lonely I was. Being surrounded by brothers who aren’t having children and moving to the suburbs at that age is very important, and now I have something of a makeshift family and support network that at least partially compensates for the lack of a traditional one. I feel incredibly at home in gay-identified spaces now and one of the top reasons I am considering WeHo over Silver Lake is the sense that I’d find more “community” there, even though I think otherwise the people on the eastside are more my speed.

    • Don’t move to West Hollywood because some journalist painted one ominous picture of Silver Lake. Silver Lake and Echo Park kick West Hollywood’s ass for entertainment and trailblazing but if you are into gaycentric government and the gay mafioso elite, then WeHo is for you.

    • Long Beach also has a large gay community, and I imagine that it’s a bit more down-to-earth than West Hollywood.

  4. The sad thing is that the space is great, he was just misguided in thinking that the east side wanted a WeHo type bar. We don’t. We want a great dance floor with great music.

  5. I’m not guy, yet I find this a tragedy. The gay community is disappearing from Silver Lake. And that is a negative loss of diversity.

    One of the biggest plusses of Silver Lake over the decades was its tremendous diversity, a place where absolutely every social class, every lifestyle, every race, every religion and every political outlook lived. Now it is turning into just another narrow community, as more and more of the diverse elements — from gays to lower income to even races, it seems, as I see a LOT fewer faces of different races — are being pushed and priced out for more and more of the same old same old hipster trendy commercial mindless monied crap.

    RIP MJs. I liked knowing that you were there.

  6. Let’s not read too much into this and all of its potential theories and motives. MJ’s was a tacky, thumpy, weho satellite in silverlake. Me or none of my gay friends have been to it in years. Sure that part of town has turned into strollerville but maybe if they didn’t have ridiculous foam parties and actually played good music it would have stayed. Akbar and Eagle fill the need just fine.

    • ‘Me or none of my gay friends have been to it in years. ‘ ..what language is this, anyway?

      • Way to catch me on a small gramerical error, Su WUT. I’d better enroll myself in LACC and learn how to write in English and stuff. (Sp?)

        • It’s actually “Grammatical” Not “gramerical”.
          I’m not bagging on you. I’m just alerting you to it.

          • Thank you for the polite correction, but can we keep it on topic? I’m an active member of the gay community and want to be part of the conversation. I see nothing egregious about mine or any of the other posts that warrants redirecting the discussion. Cheers!

  7. Jason, hope you won’t let this latest news discourage you from considering Silver Lake! It’s very gay-friendly and still has a couple gay bars to visit, although this is definitely a blow to the community.

    Still, the news doesn’t surprise me at all. MJs has been *tragic* for years, and, not unlike The Other Side, just had owners who seemed like they weren’t even trying to be up on the times anymore and decided to hang it up. What’s most upsetting about both the disappearance of The Other Side and now MJs is the total disinterest on the part of the gay owners to try and keep it gay or very LGBT-friendly once they’ve moved on. It’s like the LGBT community was just a commodity that got old for them and it was time for something different that’d make them more money in a sale to someone else.

    I do believe that there is space for more LGBT bar/eats socializing on the east side, as evidenced by Akbar’s growing popularity, and it’s not so much a matter of demand for it as it is a question of what is being offered.

    • Grahm Wellington

      @ Luke
      How would the old owners be able to influence the new owners to keep it a gay establishment? That is impossible to control; an unfair indictment of the sellers.

  8. The owner was unreliable, and always taking control of situations and making them worse. He would promote concert ticket giveaways, insist he’d take care of it, then admit during the giveaway he forgot. The music was usually the same, hookah nights got flooded with stuck up Armenians, and woman started flooding the place changing the demographic, which anyone can tell you, drunk women love to cause issues and fight. The staff was great, but the owner wasn’t. He took a great club and trashed it like a teen’s first car. And now won’t answer emails because he didn’t pay bills and won’t admit it. Let’s hope whatever comes next is not the Armenian restaurant but a good mixed night club.

    • duh,

      What’s your beef with women and Armenian people?

      • There is NOTHING more grating than the screeching of drunken hetero females . And by the way ladies : contrary to your own strong belief , your anatomy buys you know chivalry in gay male establishments . . .

  9. The gay community is still here. We’re at AKBAR.

  10. I for one understand the reason so many gay clubs are closing, I owned and operated the Express Nightclub in Fresno for 10 years, and since gay people are now part of the main stream, they no longer feel the need to only go to a gay only club, we closed our doors Jan 7th of 2013, we didn’t want to but we were a large dance club and it was no longer feasible to keep it open due to the drop in attendance, we went from a average of 1500 people a week to less than 500 a week in a two year period, I dumped my entire retirement fund into a remodel with the hopes it would turn it around but it didn’t, we closed a year later. It is sad that such land marks are closing across the country, you can pretty much ask any one if the knew of the Express Nightclub, and chances are they will say yes, we were the club of choice for years in Fresno.

  11. Not surprising in the least. I go-go dance at Micky’s and the other go-gos and I discussed often how the place had died and how the really lovely space was being misused. Micky’s was terribly mismanaged by trying to WeHo-it-up, assuming (incorrectly) that the overly pretentious house-all-the-time Abbey-like ethos was aspirational when it fact it has become a laughingstock to local gays. The Abbey is a tourist bar, a straight bar with a gay theme much like there are Tiki themed bars. That overdone gay Disney vibe may be what straights and tourists are looking for in a gay bar, but that’s not what gay dudes are looking for anymore, if they ever did. Gays want a more chill, Cheers-like “where everybody knows your name” vibe. They don’t want to listen 100% of the time to house music so loud you have to scream. Especially not gays in the Silverlake-area, who skew more relaxed. MJs was just doing way too much, and none of it well — like a poor man’s Mickys. For that reason, I’m not sad to see it go; I just wish the owner would have taken advice.

    MJs would have functioned well as a sports bar/cantina/microbrew with a great Sunday brunch (how cool would a go-go brunch have been?). But these things require creative thinking. The patio was criminalized misused. Gay guys are growing and changing; gay entertainment should change with it. I hope the other gay venue owners learn something from this.

  12. I heard that the new pizzeria on sunset ….the one replacing toms burgers I are the same aremenian owners as mjs

  13. i’m armenian, looking forward to the new armenian-friendly space.

    • Echo Park resident

      Why do you need an “armenian-friendly” space when there’s an entire Armenian city just over the river? Glendale should suit your needs just fine, bro.

      • Wow, just imagine if you substituted another ethnic group for “Armenian” in your sentence, such as: “Why do you need a ‘Mexican-friendly’ space when there’s an entire Mexican city just ten miles south on the 5 freeway? Maywood should suit your needs just fine, carnal.’ Or: “Why do you need a black-friendly space when there’s an entire black city just south of us? Compton should suit your needs just fine, homie.” I guess your racism is okay because you’re talking about Armenians – is that how you see it?

  14. They killed it with excessive door charges even on weeknights…even West Hollywood bars you can get in free before midnight. I used to go to that place in the 80s when it was Woody’s and yes in recent years that bar has become really tacky, low rent dancers clientele and ridiculous names for each night. The area has changed I still miss Burrito King which was replaced with that god awful psuedo mexican food Mixto. Coffee Table gone too I need to move.

  15. Recently I’ve enjoyed piano bars nights. Haven’t been there for happy hour in a long time and hardly ever went there on club nights. I am saddest to see another piano bar venue closing.

  16. UGHHH straight “hip” people taking over the neighborhood!!!! So glad i moved from this awful town it is destroyed

    twist up your mustache

  17. Wow. A lot of hate directed at Armenians in The Eastsider blogs. Is it the bigotry of newbies or newly unearthed hate from old time residents of Silver Lake and Los Feliz?

  18. This heartbreaking. Not every bar in town needs drinks served in mason jars to attract people. I love a mason jar cocktail but this whole shut down every cool place that makes the east side so great is really bringing me down. Everyone straight or gay needs a good neighborhood gay bar and MJ’s was mine.

  19. Well, I’m not Armenian, however I think most Armenian men are hot. I love thier hairy bodies and faces. I moved up from Mexico City 10 years ago to go to USC and stayed in Glendale….lucky me, my first encounters with these hot Armenian men was sexual…oooh la la. I think an Amenian cafe/bar would be great.

  20. The internet has destroyed the gay scene and gay life in general. No one wants to get to know anyone anymore, they just want to know how many times a week you go to the gym, whether or not you are a top or bottom, how big your dick is, and what your favorite position is.

    I don’t know one gay person in L.A. who is in a serious committed relationship.

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