The Evolution of West Hollywood’s Gay 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 GayLifeLA readers about LGBT  issues. So please keep comments focused on the issues and not criticism of particular individuals.

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