Permanent loss

Washington DC loses two of its biggest and longest-running gay venues


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In the space of one week, two of the best-known and longest-running gay venues in Washington DC have announced that they are to close: Ziegfelds-Secrets and DC Eagle.

Both venues closed temporarily in mid-March following coronavirus-related orders from local authorities. On Friday, Ziegfelds-Secrets posted a notice to its social media to say it wouldn’t be reopening.

“Ziegfelds/Secrets regrettably has been forced to close our doors. We all have been honored to bring you the best in entertainment for 40 years, regrettably the option to stay and even have a closing event has been taken from us during this crisis.

“To the many dancers, drag queen, bartenders, DJs, and support staff over the years thank you for making us one of DC’s best venues. Stay safe and healthy. Til next time….”

Ziegfelds-Secrets claimed to be DC’s biggest LGBTQ venue, with 25,000 sq foot of space over two separate rooms: the drag show oriented Ziegfelds and the more club-focused Secrets with its male dancers. It launched in 1980 in premises at Half St. SE, but relocated 11 years ago to its current home at 1824 Half St. SW.

In 2016, it was revealed the venue was living on borrowed time. The Washington Blade reported the building was being sold to a property developer who would likely force the business out in “two or three years.”

That deadline kept getting extended. This week, part-owner and General Manager Steven Delurba told the Blade the new owners wanted the business out sooner than had been expected. They plan to demolish the site to build a new block of apartments.

It’s understood that Delurba and the principal owner, Alan Carroll, are looking into the possibility of moving to a new location, but at the moment, that’s far from certain.

Related: This US city is about to lose half its gay venues

The closure of Ziegfelds-Secrets was followed yesterday by the news that the DC Eagle bar would also not be reopening. Again, there had been recent speculation over the future of the business. Three months ago, the Washington Informer said there were plans to turn the building – a four-story former warehouse at 3701 Benning Road, NE – into a 300-bed prison halfway house.

Launched in 1971, the DC Eagle was the oldest gay bar in DC. Employees were informed of the decision not to reopen on Monday night during an online Zoom meeting.

Although it began life as a leather and denim cruise bar, in recent years, DC Eagle had become a more inclusive-space, easing its dress code and hosting regular drag shows and community fundraisers.

Eagle manager Miguel Ayala says he was informed during the meeting that the new owners of the building wanted the business out by September at the latest. He says DC attorney Glen Ackerman, representing part-owner Peter Lloyd, said that Lloyd and principal owner Ted Clements had decided to dissolve the business rather than seek new premises.

The news comes after the February closure of Washington DC’s last remaining bathhouse, Crew Club. Other gay bars to close in the district include Town Danceboutique in 2018 and Cobalt in 2019.

Related: Washington DC’s last remaining gay bathhouse to close this week