Welcome to THEJNSREPORT’S: The Nostalgia of Days Past
Written by Chris Woodsworth
Recently, some friends and I were having a discussion over lunch about the opening of a new Gay bar in Chelsea called Rebar which opened in the footprint of the now defunct G Lounge. If you’re old enough to remember what G Lounge was like in the early 2000’s (in my instance 2002), it was very different from what it evolved into over the last decade plus. G’s demise gave birth to the newly renovated, rebranded and controversial Rebar from G’s ownership.
The controversy comes from the accounts given of what it’s like at Rebar for patrons of color. There appears to be an unwritten quota of how many black patrons are allowed in and if they are that they don’t wear hats.
Personally, I’d just avoid a place like that and spend my money where I was welcome without worrying about some B.S dress code standards. I mean we’re talking about a bar not a club here. It’s ridiculous and indefensible but this type of behavior isn’t anything new. G before its demise also for a brief period of time instituted a dress code of no boots or hats or hanging jeans or something to that effect as they were trying to limit their exposure to black patrons who were coming further uptown from Christopher Street after the only Black Gay bar Chi Chi’s had gone out of business.
Back in the day, which seems like just yesterday, G Lounge was a gay bar/lounge that’s patrons were predominantly gay white Wall Street and business types who came to G as their regular hang out after a day’s work. At that time you had Splash, The Roxy, G Lounge, Barracuda, Sound Factory, Escuelita, The Web, The Hangar, The Cock, Rawhide and on and on.
If you walked into G Lounge back then during happy hour, you would see a nearly all white suit and tie crowd yucking it up amongst each other stiff as boards glued to the walls that went round the circular central bar. As the evening would wear on G featured ripped muscle go-go boys, as well as muscled and twink bartenders and servers (who were also mostly white) catering to the needs of those who came there to have cocktails but didn’t wish to wait at the bar to order.
The circular and unforgettable stainless steel bar would seemingly rotate (even though it didn’t literally move) as one passed by from the front to the back where limited seating and twin male and female bathrooms loomed behind an off to the left coat check. The urinals around the very rear of the bathrooms were a nice touch and definitely came in handy countless times not just for convenience in a packed popular gay bar but for cruising hot guys as well. It appears Rebar would like to return to that time where patrons of color felt less than welcome in a setting seemingly catering more towards a white customer base.
Back then there was no Facebook, or Grindr, or whatever apps are the most popular and prevalent today. Gay men who took pride in their appearance and the younger generation post AIDS crisis who were discovering the power and allure of the NYC Gay night life. For many of my friends and myself that was a golden era. It was a time when coming out as a young LGBT New Yorker made you feel like there was a vast universe to discover in the most popular, most diverse, and at least for me the most fun city in the world. I mean how can you argue with a city that literally never sleeps?
Today’s NYC nightlife scene has drastically changed with most of the big dance clubs/parties having died out or relocated and clustered to Hells Kitchen. It just reminds me that nothing stays the same forever. Eventually all things run their course and I believe that this will be the same for this new Rebar. Being exclusionary has it’s consequences and I’m sure that the ownership of Rebar will find that out sooner or later. There may be less choice as far as gay bars in Chelsea than there used to be but there’s still choice and people will go where they,their money, hats and all are welcome.