The “gayest store on earth” will close its doors on March 31.
Larry Block, owner of The Block Party, a clothing store in the heart of the West Hollywood gay nightlife district known as Boystown, announced the closing of the store today.
The closing of The Block Party is the latest in a series of changes in the Boystown area that have led observers to wonder whether it will survive as a gay-centric nightlife and shopping district.
The Block Party opened at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd. near Larrabee five years ago, replacing Different Light, a famous gay bookstore. It has catered to a largely gay clientele with underwear, swimwear, shirts and tank tops and shorts. It also sells jewelry and gay-specific greeting cards.
The Block Party’s lease with Timothy Sullivan’s Larrabee Ventures ended last October. Block, an unsuccessful candidate in the March 3 race for West Hollywood City Council, told WEHOville that he had asked for a six-month extension of the lease while he negotiated a plan to merge with Video West, a nearby business on Larrabee Street owned by Claudia Flores, whose lease also was up. Block said the merger, which would have had both businesses share the Block Party space, would have allowed them to survive substantial rent increases and common area charges. Video West has been in business since 1984. The merger required the approval of Larrabee Ventures. But in an email to Block this morning, Sullivan said “We will not be able to do the video west deal. Your store will not be available after March 31.”
According to Block, Sullivan is considering using The Block Party space for a health food / juice bar. It is unclear whether Flores will continue to operate Video West. As of this morning WEHOville was unable to reach her for comment.
The Boystown area, which runs along Santa Monica Boulevard from San Vicente to Robertson, has undergone substantial changes in recent years.
Clubs like The Abbey, one of the area’s most popular gay venues, increasingly attract a heterosexual crowd. P.U.M.P., a bar opened by the reality TV performer Lisa Vanderpump at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson boulevards, was billed by her as a gay club. But visitors note that on most nights it has a largely heterosexual crowd. David Cooley, the founder of The Abbey, is opening a large restaurant with a bar called Cooley’s that will cater to a diverse crowd.
The owner of Eleven, a gay nightclub on the corner of Santa Monica and Larrabee, sold it last year to a heterosexual couple from New York City that converted it into Flaming Saddles, a gay Country/Western bar that appears to attract few customers. Here Lounge, whose owner Pat Rogers created several popular gay establishments in New York City, is not open as many nights a week as it used to be. And Rage, a gay bar that opened in 1983, continues to suffer from a lack of customers. The Horn, a restaurant whose gay owner, Adam Klesh, created a menu featuring wild game, closed earlier this month after only five months in business. Klesh has said the restaurant will reopen with a less-expensive menu.
There are various theories about the decline of gay-oriented businesses in Boystown. Block attributes it in part to the city’s increase in parking meter charges and parking meter enforcement hours. Then there are academics such as Amin Ghaziani, a sociologist and author of “There Goes the Gayborhood,” who attribute the changes in part to increased acceptance of LGBT people.
“I have tears in my eyes,” Block said today about the closing of his store. “It is sad. It was always a labor of love. I always loved that it put me in the community… The rent kept going up, the rent kept going up. It wasn’t profitable.”