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Long Beach’s Paradise, landmark gay bar-restaurant, closing Tuesday

After more than three decades, Paradise Bar and Restaurant will have its last call Tuesday. The renowned gay space on the Broadway Corridor in the heart of the Alamitos Beach neighborhood, home to the fabulous gayborhood, will close its doors after serving Taco Tuesday. Photo: Q Voice News.

LONG BEACH — Long Beach’s gayborhood has lost one of its landmark establishments, and it will be replaced by a watering hole that caters to a straight crowd.

After more than three decades, Paradise Bar and Restaurant will have its last call Tuesday. The renowned gay space on the Broadway Corridor in the heart of the Alamitos Beach neighborhood, home to the fabulous gayborhood, will close its doors after serving Taco Tuesday.

Realtor Michael Barber, who also owns The Falcon, just down the street from Paradise, and Eagle 562, the Levi-leather bar in North Long Beach, has owned Paradise 13 years. Previously, Paradise also was gay owned and operated.

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“I have a lot on my plate,” Barber said during an interview. “For now, I’m going to focus on the Eagle 562 and The Falcon. I want to work less, not more.”

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NEW OWNERS

The new business owners are expected to be Bethany Black and Shannon McManus, who ran the Sunset Strip-based The Viper Room from 1993 to 1998 and operate Hollywood’s Black bar on Santa Monica Boulevard, whose target market is straight skateboarders.

According to the application for ownership change, the applicant is Black LB.

Black and McManus are in the process of acquiring Paradise’s license that would allow them to continue selling booze and operating the restaurant.

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They filed their application Feb. 14, and it has been approved by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s office. The application also needs approval from Alcoholic Beverage Control headquarters in Sacramento. The entire process can take 90 days to complete.

HISTORIC LOCATION

The Paradise building dates to 1924 when it was a grocery store and ice cream parlor. From 1937 to 1980, it housed the Ambassador cocktail lounge.

In 1980, The Paradise took over the space.

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For the gay community, it was more than a restaurant-bar. It hosted numerous group meetings and AIDS fundraisers as well as a the Long Beach Teams Project, which helped prevent gay bashing in the 1990s.

“The Long Beach Teams Project was started because a gay many was murdered coming out of Paradise in the 1990s,” said Long Beach attorney Stephanie Loftin, a long-time LGBTQ activist. “The Teams Project worked with Long Beach Police Department to patrol Broadway on Saturday nights to help prevent gay bashing.

“The cops even had undercover decoys walking the streets and holding hands,” she said.

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Paradise also was known as a piano bar, where renowned gay cabaret entertainer Rudy de la Mor performed.

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CH CH CH CHANGES

Barber was approached about seven months ago by representatives for Black and McManus, he said.

They’ve had customers asking about opening a place down in this area,” he said.

It’s unclear what changes Black and McManus would make to the space and bring to the neighborhood because they declined an interview until they take possession of the business.

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Barber said he’s not worried that the area is losing an LGBTQ space.

“It’s kind of silly,” he said. “Years ago, I used to feel the need to go to a gay restaurant to hold hands. Now, you can do that anywhere.

“We still have five more gay bars on the street,” Barber said. “I think everyone will be fine.”

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‘END OF AN ERA’

Black and McManus were asked via email if they are concerned that the addition of Black will lead to gentrification of the gayhood, an issue KCET and VoiceWaves reported last year.

They didn’t want to address the topic.

“We look forward to serving all members of this wonderful community equally,” Black and McManus said.

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That reply, if taken literally, would mean the new Black location also will cater to the LGBTQ community, especially with Long Beach Pride upcoming in May.

Nevertheless, Loftin says Paradise’s closing is significant.

“It’s the end of an era,” she said.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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