ABC Department Closes WeHo’s Here Lounge

Here Lounge Suspension Notice
Here Lounge Suspension Notice
Here Lounge is the latest West Hollywood gay bar to face penalties from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for allegations of lewd conduct by go go dancers.

Here co-owner Pat Rogers confirmed today that Here’s closure for a month, earlier described by WEHOville as part of a remodeling project, has been ordered by the ABC department. A sign went up on the door of the lounge at 696 N. Robertson Blvd. south of Santa Monica on Tuesday. According to the sign, the suspension will be lifted on Jan. 1, 2014.

The Here suspension and ABC fines levied against Mickys, the gay bar at 8857 Santa Monica Blvd. at Larrabee, prompted the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to convene a meeting between bar owners and ABC representatives last month to discuss enforcement of ABC laws.

Genevieve Morrill, president of the Chamber, said the bar owners present, all of whom have go go dancers at their establishments, expressed concern that ABC doesn’t notify them of violations until many months after they occur. The owners also questioned the relevance of the lewd conduct laws, enforced by ABC, which were written 43 years ago.

While the bar owners are upset about the ABC enforcement practices, they also are concerned that a competitor, who none would identify publicly, is alerting ABC to alleged violations of its lewd conduct laws.

“I think it’s a competitor,” Rogers said. “I received an email in July saying that this particular person is doing that.” The ABC inspectors have said they only visit locations where alcoholic beverages are served on receipt of a complaint.

Nightlife in West Hollywood’s “Boystown,” the blocks on the west end of Santa Monica Boulevard where most gay bars, clothing stores and restaurants are located, is becoming more competitive. There are a dozen bars and nightclubs there and on an adjoining block of North Robertson Boulevard, where Here is located. That competition will ramp up next year with the expected opening of PUMP by Lisa Vanderpump at the southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and North Robertson and of Cooley’s, a hundred feet away, by David Cooley, founder of the iconic Abbey.

Rogers said the closing will have an impact on his employees, who won’t be working for a month. “Some of my kids were panicked,” he said. “Thank God I have a little money put aside. I’m watching every penny I have.”

Rogers reiterated objections to ABC enforcement rules that were raised in the Chamber of Commerce meeting. He said he had received details about the ABC complaint only today, although the ABC report said its investigation of Here started in May and included three visits.

“I don’t understand why they don’t give us a warning,” he said. “”If I had been warned, I would have taken action.”

Rogers said Here faced 27 complaints. One was that an employee had served a patron a drink without charging for it. The others cited Here and various go go dancers, who are employed by nightlife promoters who contract with Here. Among the violations were not having the dancers on a platform at least 18 inches from the floor and at least six feet from patrons. That would make it impossible for patrons to give tips to dancers, a major source of their income.

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