Goodbye Apex: Popular DC Gay Bar Closes

After Last week’s talk on this blog, Slate, and others about the history and future of the American gay bar comes some sad news. Washington, DC‘s Apex (formerly known as Badlands) closed its doors for the final time on Tuesday, July 5th.

Apex opened as Badlands in 1983 and was DC’s longest running gay dance club.

It was the first gay bar I ever went to, and I have both fond and less-than-fond memories of it. I remember driving past its cinder block, windowless facade in high school and wanting so badly to venture inside, and I have fond memories of finally making it there with a group of friends for the first time when we were all home from college. I also remember having to pre-game before we went out because, as an 18+ bar, they were very strict on IDs. The interior was only a little bit more appealing than the exterior but it was a sprawling space with multiple rooms that facilitated dancing.

DC’s Metro Weekly has a good piece about the shuttering of Apex that I highly reccommend reading for more details.

Photo by: Gordon Wells

Do you have a good story from Apex or another recently closed gay bar? Feel free to share your stories in Comments…

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  • Kamuriie

    Lol @ “popular.” Town put an end to Apex.

  • SayWhat!

    @Kamuriie: Very true. I wonder what’ll show up in it’s place.

  • @aeboi128

    lol man only thing ima miss about this place is that it was free on thursdays. But Town is way better…im going to cobalt next week with the bf…heard it was even better !!

  • Chris

    Badlands was the best place to meet your A&F date for the night on Fridays in the 1990s after midnight. Wonder what happened to ‘Nancy Sinatra’ who did boots in front of the video screen each week?

  • Erik

    The title of this article should read “Longtime DC gay bar goes out of business.” Apex hasn’t been “popular” for about 5 years, ever since Town and Nellies opened. The competition is what drove it out of business. The new spots were better.

  • Michael

    Very sad. This too was the first gay club I ever went to, when I was coming out as a Virginia college student when I was 20. It could be seedy, and as soon as I turned 21, I stopped going for the most part, but the place will always have a fond place in my heart.

  • Chris H

    My first gay bar too! My friends and I danced, got in fights, made friends, snuck in booze, everything good little 19yo boys and girls are supposed to do. She will be missed.

  • nickadoola

    It wasn’t my first gay BAR, but it was my first gay CLUB. I got there early. No one else was there but the bartenders at the time (whose names I later learned were Anita and David – everyone thought David and I were brothers because we looked a lot alike, but I digress).

    It was the early 90s, I was freshly out of the closet. I was still nervous about being in a gay nightclub for the first time. Being in an empty one wasn’t making the experience easier.

    Another guy entered the club. Handsome guy. I watched him pace around exploring the place. He looked as though it was his first time there as well. He approached me and began engaging me in conversation. He then asked if he could get a cigarette from me.

    As he lit his cigarette, he began to get impatient, looking around all over the place. “When do people start getting here, man?”

    I replied, “I don’t know. This is my first time here as well.”

    He said, “Dude, do a lotta chicks come to this place?”

    I answered, “Umm, I… highly doubt it.”

    “Dude?! Is this… a GAY BAR?!”

    “Uhh, yeah.”

    “Aww, shit!” he said as he stormed out towards the exit at light speed.

    So began my first night at Badlands.

    It’s been 13 years since I left D.C. I still miss karaoke nights with Gladys Kravitz and the crazy outfits worn by Cookie Buffet.

  • Sean

    This wouldn’t be as sad if there were another 18+ gay club in DC, but there isn’t. Honestly, this came as pretty shocking news to me and all my friends, if for nothing else than just the fact that Apex plays such an important formative role in closeted and just-out college kids in the area. I for one wouldn’t have come out nearly as early as I did if it weren’t for Apex.

    Yes, Town is better, and technically has ONE 18+ night (on Fridays) with a cover charge, but this in no way makes up for Apex which was 1. Full of young people 2. Free for college students and 3. Easily accessible for multiple universities in the area. I really do lament Apex’s closing because this means that hundreds of gay or soon-to-be-out college freshman won’t get anything near the experience that others before them did.

    Every Thursday was college night at Apex, and the club freely opened its doors to anyone with a valid college ID. I can still easily remember the 11:40 last-call bus to the club from my college, which was inevitably filled to the brim with drunk, gay, giddy college students eager for a night out. I have literally known dozens of kids to structure their Friday classes to avoid anything before 11:00AM, so as to give their aching hangovers a chance of subsiding.

    Really, truly sad.

  • GayGOP

    Ahh, Apex brings back memories. It’s been 8 years since I was last in there, but I will miss it. It was the first gay club/bar I went to, when I first came out in college.

  • Michael Ciccone

    What happened at The Pex was a very sad moment, for myself, Washingtonians (Maryland and DC are not DC and being from Arlington or moving to DC does not mean you are a Washingtonian)and the Gay history here in DC.
    Apex closing reminded me of when Nations closed..people crying, holding on to bars and taking pieces of the club away on closing night.

    Town is the new version of Bad Lands….and Apex. It did hurt business but another main reason was the people who attended in these last years were all from MD,VA,PA,and more. Not the neighborhhood gang as it was at the start..before and after Badlands. People fought, ladies night was stopped and at one point we had metal detectors. WYF!!

    Chaos was another oldie!!! Apex the scars remain and holy shit I feel old now!!!
    REAL GAY DC KNOWS THE SADNESS OF THIS. Support your neighborhood!!!

  • nico

    oh well c’est la vie

Comments are closed.