Drama and transition defined Vegas gay nightlife throughout 2013. And given the changes happening in just these first two weeks of January, it may experience an even more momentous 2014.
A refresher: Last year, LGBT merrymakers saw the (over-)ambitious Krave Massive fail so spectacularly, it took down gay-and-straight favorite Drink & Drag with it; longtime leather bar the Buffalo close; and Marquee Nightclub start, then stop the first gay megaclub promo within three weeks. The old Keys piano bar space went gay again for the new Club Metro; the former Club Utopia/Empire Ballroom spot briefly hosted the Affair and later a downsized Krave, bought back by original owner Sia Amiri; Latino mainstay the Backdoor suffered extensive damage during an early-morning fire; and Las Vegas Eagle became the latest homo hangout to get spanked (and not in a good way) by the unlikely moral crusaders in the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Finally, nightlife entrepreneur Paul San Filipo memorably rejected TV show Bar Rescue’s renovation of his pioneering but fading gay nightclub, Gipsy.
If you’re out of breath, don’t look for air here—2014 pretty much picks up where 2013 left off.
New Year’s Eve introduced the community to Krazy Bar, located just adjacent to the Fruit Loop. Two days later, West Sahara Avenue watering hole Escape Lounge became the Phoenix. And, most intriguing of the new developments, Light nightclub and Cirque du Soleil announced an art-minded, show-oriented event called Exposure, co-promoted by gay nightlife pillar Eduardo Cordova, whose social-club concept, Confidential Wednesdays at Cosmopolitan’s newly expanded Bond lounge, just received a six-month extension.
The specs for Exposure on January 19 read like that of a game changer. Video projections upon the bodies of Cirque dancers. Aerialists performing in vignettes created at Cirque HQ in Montreal just for the event. An art exhibition and auction to benefit local LGBT-related causes. Short film screenings. And DJs who haven’t already worn out their welcome here, like headliner Dave Audé and circuit house favorite Joe Gauthreaux.
“It’s unlike anything that I’ve been involved with before,” Cordova says. “Every hour there is a different thing happening; the night progresses as it goes on.” Exposure, now a one-off, could itself progress to a biannual or quarterly schedule if it’s a success.
Just northwest of Light stands Escape Lounge—or so says the sign for now. Soon, it will read the Phoenix, which will boast gay ownership for the first time in its eight-year history. (Its straight founder is also looking to sell his other local gay bar, Goodtimes.) Its three new proprietors are unique in that they’re all men in a nearly decade-long polyamorous relationship, which will help characterize the Phoenix in a couple ways. For one, their combined skill sets, resources and experience cover nearly all of the business’ needs.
Also, the trio plans to recast the bar as a truly alternative but welcoming gathering spot, a goal no doubt influenced by their participation with and enthusiasm for the Burning Man community. “We want to be a bar that takes pride in stepping outside of the box,” says co-owner Gabe Cressy. “We have a huge opportunity to radically express ourselves and be a truly different place for not just gay folks, but straight, bi, pan, poly, open or people who just don’t give a crap about labels anymore and want to feel included.”
Finally, Krazy Bar will boast its own alternative designation. The lounge connected to Stir Krazy Mongolian Grill—both are owned by Oscar Santana, another well-connected LGBT nightlife figure—will give beverage seekers a much-needed non-smoking option. It’s currently open Thursday through Saturday—but given the capriciousness of local gay nightlife, that could change at any time.