West Hollywood’s Abbey :: Gets a New Look
The Abbey is an interesting phenomenon for Los Angeles and the larger LGBT community. Despite being over two decades old, local gays, lesbians and their friends, random A-list celebrities, and straight girls hunting for gay boyfriends keep coming back and filling up the place. One would think a bar this old is tired or worn out, but The Abbey still manages to host several rocking nighttime parties throughout the week, and has an extremely popular and busy patio on Saturdays and features the benchmark "Sunday Fundays."
After all this time, The Abbey still has dependably strong drinks, hunky bartenders, and still serves jumbo slices of kick-ass cake. So why mess with a good thing? We can be just as loyal to a long-standing bar establishment the same way we can blindly cheer on every project and proclamation released by a pop diva with an equally long career. Can’t we?
But keeping the same look for an extended period of time works for only very select elite-a small group that includes anti-chameleon types like Karl Lagerfeld and Kermit the Frog. Any good promoter or bar owner knows you have to do everything from the superficial stuff like switching out a few go-go boys and colored light bulbs, to the more substantial knocking down of walls, to keep the boys coming back.
Some venues get a chance to rebuild after tragedy, like Micky’s did when it was gutted by fire a few years ago. Others like the Faultline, the popular leather bar on the border of Silver Lake, shut their doors to the public for a month or two to focus on redesign.
Few like the Abbey are as huge and so well versed in remodeling that they are able to undergo a gradual renovation, re-doing a majority of the bar’s interiors one room at a time, and still keep its doors open to the public.
It’s the Inside that Counts!
When asked why they made the decision to overhaul the behemoth bar now, the Abbey’s founder David Cooley says "Everyone needs a facelift at 21," jokingly referring to the fact that the business has operating for 21 years. (I mean, I hope he was joking...otherwise according to Cooley’s standards I’m wildly overdue and he may have been trying to suggest something to me not so subtly.) "With the amount of traffic we see here," Cooley continued, "and the wear and tear, we always have to do an update to every room every once a year. But now, a major [update] was needed. It just looks like a new bar and restaurant now."
For all this alleged "wear and tear," there hasn’t appeared to be any obvious outcry for an update; The Abbey actually continues to rake in a range of accolades every year. The bar won Logo TV’s award for "Best Gay Bar in the World" and Gay Cities’ "Best Bar" award in 2009, and won the Logo award again the following year, along with AOL’s City’s Best award for "Best GLBT Nightlife" destination in LA. But perhaps changing before the public demands the change is part of the reason the business that’s managed to survive and succeed for two decades.
While they may not be visible to someone walking by on Robertson Blvd, the Abbey’s interiors have undergone many dramatic improvements. The Abbey’s new look includes a sunken dance floor boxed in by VIP booths, an upgraded A/V system, new sleeker bars, and a larger kitchen space to accommodate the restaurant’s new menu.