The Starlite Lounge Says Goodbye

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The Starlite Lounge, one of Brooklyn’s oldest gay bars and possibly the first black-owned gay bar in Brooklyn, has been having rough times for about a year now. After the building came under new ownership this past December, there was a petition to landmark the building and protect it from demolition. It wasn’t demolished, but we recently received an email that said the Starlite Lounge is closing its doors for good on July 31st. There will be events there until Saturday celebrating the end of a neighborhood staple in Crown Heights.
Starlite Lounge in Danger of Closing Forever [Brownstoner]
Curtains for Starlite Lounge [Brownstoner] GMAP

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  • daveinbedstuy

    We should go here Friday after work.

  • Cutrains? C’mon, brownstoner, first your spell “arena” with “arean”, and now this?

  • are there even any other gay bars anywhere around there that would give it any kind of competition? kinda sad it has to close, but there’s a lot of homophobia in that neighborhood i personally know someone who was gay bashed in crown heights (no clue if it was north or south) a few years ago. and it did not make the news at all!

    *rob*

  • he is still thinking in german from his trip

  • They should move to Flatbush. Church/Nostrand would be ideal.

    ***Bid half off peak comps***

  • I wonder how old the Starlite is.

    Back in the 50′s and 60′s when I lived in Crown Heights as a boy, the neighbors were up in arms about changes in the zoning code that “allowed bars on every corner”! The change was perceived as part of landlords’ efforts to accelerate the neighborhood’s social shift, from families to singles and transients, at a time when black and white residents were trying to stabilize the community. Those days, Brooklyn bars were considered “lower class” and were twinned with prostitution, perfect for the “hot sheet” single-room occupancy dwellings that were starting to invade the area’s apartment buildings.

    Of course, race was implicit in the outcry. Young people moving into the neighborhood were mostly black and although the “old guard” was racially integrated, the new comers with their “conked” hair and flashy clothes were suspect, not at all like the “churched” black folk in their rambling row houses on the sidestreets or the striving professionals in their Art Deco apartments on St Marks Avenue. Transient, the new people came and went, allowing landlords to jack up the rents with every new lease. Bars, the supposition went, would only attract more of this “undesirable” element.

    Now, of course, hipsters bring their babies into bars. But back then, bars were dark and mysterious places. To hear of my father’s bohemian haunts in the Village widened my little brother’s and my eyes to saucers. Nicely lit, Dad would wait until our mother absented herself then share a ribald joke learned from his cronies at the Cedar Tavern. Male bonding, I guess you’d call it. I can remember some of his jokes to this day.

    Nostalgic on Park Avenue

  • For God’s sake Rob, stop with the over generalizing. I know someone who was mugged in Park Slope. That doesn’t make Park Slope dangerous.

    Yes, there are those, especially in some parts of the Caribbean community who don’t like gays. But there is an element of anti-gay people just about everywhere, unfortunately. I happen to know quite a few gay homeowners and renters here who love it here, have never had a problem, and probably never will. Most people, even here, manage to keep their prejudices under wraps enough to allow all kinds of people to walk down the street unmolested. There has been a black gay community here for a really long time, hence the bar. If they were afraid or unwelcome, they would have left years ago. They didn’t.

    Dave, I’m game. Gather the gang and I’ll be there.

  • So Montrose, how old is the Starlite? I don’t remember ever seeing it.

    Then again, I wasn’t on the lookout for bars and didn’t go to my first until I was in college. (Then you couldn’t keep me out of them!)

  • NOP,it’s on the corner of Bergen and Nostrand, southwest side of the street, and is not exactly eye catching. It’s been there since the 60′s as I understand it.

  • Montrose, then it may be one of the “joints” that got people into a lather back in the day!

    Could it have been gay from the start? Now that really would have given the good ladies of Dean Street palpitations!

  • quote:
    Bars, the supposition went, would only attract more of this “undesirable” element.

    it’s funny cuz it’s true. except these days all these new yuppie like bars attract a different kind of “undersirable” element.. at least for me.

    *rob*

  • dittoburg

    “t’s funny cuz it’s true. except these days all these new yuppie like bars attract a different kind of “undersirable” element.. at least for me.”

    one man’s meat is another man’s poison. (nh)

  • daveinbedstuy

    Is there any “rough trade” there?

  • NOP, your old ladies were pretty successful. We don’t have very many bars in this neighborhood at all, of any kind. In fact, aside from the newer watering holes over on Franklin, the Starlight is the only one I can think of in the neighborhood. That, and the Kingston Lounge, which has been closed for years. I believe it’s always been gay, just more discreetly, in the old days.

  • Thanks for the info, Montrose. I don’t remember the Starlite or any bar in the neighborhood.

    Liquor stores were the other great fear. I don’t remember any of those, either.

    But what kid looks for such places? (Except Pete Hammill, who’d be sent by his mother to drag his father out of Park Slope bars. Then again, Park Slope was considered less “good” than Crown Heights way back when!)

  • oh wow pete hammill’s mother sounds like a total nag

    *rob*

  • No, *rob*, she was just trying to save some of his salary to feed the family — and pay the rent.

    Those old Park Slope bars were notorious for the working-class drinkers who’d blow their week’s pay on a Friday night, their wives and kids be damned.

    There’s a whole world of poor white New York folk that’s disappeared since World War II.

    And in its place we have the “brownstone belt.”

    Enjoy your latte. Your coffee shop may once have been just such a joint.

  • NeoGrec

    I’m up for a Friday visit to the Starlite!

  • I have to agree with Rob, partially.

    There are parts of Crown Heights I do not enjoy walking around because of the looks, stares and occasional comments.

    That doesn’t mean it isn’t safe, but comfort levels are different for everyone and I haven’t had great experiences walking around Crown Heights.

    I feel safer walking around the projects in Boreum Hill than I do around Crown Heights actually. Those dudes down there seem a little more comfortable with their sexuality than the ones who seem to enjoy making comments on the streets of Crown Heights.

    You know what they say….

  • Don’t know where you were, 11217, but I will take you around the neighborhood anytime to counter that, and show you the real CH. Most of my male friends are gay, and of all racial and age groups, and have never had a problem. I’m not denying your experiences or your feelings, but I am really surprised. You’d think people could live and let live. I’m not ready to cede the streets of my neighborhood to a bunch of ignorant thugs.

  • i am a lesbian and have lived a couple blocks from the starlite for about 3 years. i pretty much walk down the street everyday holding hands with my girlfriend. i’ve never personally had any problem aside from occasional comments (which pretty much happens everywhere when you are openly gay – homophobic people are all around us). i think the notion that this neighborhood is particularly more homophobic than others is untrue and usually based in racism and classism.

    i often patronize the starlite. to call it a gay bar is not totally accurate. they advertise that they are a “non discriminating bar” which i think suits them very well. gay people come there but so do straight people, and so do young people, and older people, new residents and old residents, and black, white, latino etc. it is a welcoming establishment.

    this bar is a gem in the neighborhood. i met so many wonderful people whom i never would have gotten to talk to if not for the starlite. i will be so sad to see it go.

    hope everybody comes out on saturday to give it a proper goodbye. hopefully we will see it reopen in the neighborhood.

  • Meansproduction:

    You appear new to Brownstoner. Since you live in Crown Heights, it would be good to hear from you when it comes up.