Nightlife » Bars

Rawhide :: Hangs Up Its Saddle

by JC Alvarez
Wednesday Mar 13, 2013
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It looks like one more landmark location has become the latest casualty of the New York City economic tumble. The Chelsea mainstay Rawhide, located on the corner of 21st and "The Strip" on 8th Avenue, has been handed its walking papers and is being evicted. It’ll join the series of empty storefronts along the popular drag that have recently seen their rents double beyond reasonable measure.

The Rawhide had often been the Chelsea alternative to muscle boys, and the preppie twink scene that dominated most of the neighborhood’s bars. It’s black curtained, rustic appeal lured many a cub into the waiting hands of an appreciative leather bear daddy. Along with its extensive on-tap beer selection, among the biggest draws into the den was the annual "Mr. Rawhide" Contest.

"Rawhide was a very specific ’niche’ bar that had decades of fans," said Bob Pontarelli, the owner of the nearby hot spot Barracuda and the Hell’s Kitchen space, Industry Bar. "Sadly, the soaring prices of commercial real estate became overwhelming as often happens in New York." That the real estate prices have continued to soar, as the crowds migrate north, has left few far-and-between spaces attractive to the local gay population.


Changing Times

"Though it’s unfortunate to lose any of our bars," Pontarelli added, "happily both Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen continue to thrive as social epicenters," though noticeably less prominent on 8th Avenue. Perhaps that’s why bars off the main avenue like Barracuda and "G" Lounge continue to fare better than their 8th Avenue cousins. The more popular and often more occupied downtown haunt isn’t even "technically" part of Chelsea.

The sports bar, Boxers NYC, which is nestled behind the infamous (and former) Limelight dance club, now a high-end mall, is technically in the Flatiron District. Boxers NYC has also recently launched a second bar, perpetuating the franchise with the debut of Boxers HK. Hell’s Kitchen along with the nearby Theater District is beginning to look a lot more like Chelsea did twenty years ago, leaving one to wonder how long before the "gay"-borhood pushes further north, or even over to the east side of Manhattan.


Unfortunately that will leave some significant vacancies and boarded up spaces in Chelsea, including soon the corner of 21st and 8th Avenue. "On any given day of the week, you could stop into Rawhide and run into your friends and neighbors," said one regular patron who wanted to remain anonymous. "It will be missed. It was a home for many of us."

So we bid our fond farewell to Rawhide and the countless memories that will inhabit the space and await the next Chelsea evolution. Prepare to welcome the next "big thing" that will move onto the lot or say hello to the next Thai restaurant -┬áthe fifth or sixth along the 8th Avenue divide -┬áthat will draw us in before hitting the always comfortable neighborhood charm that has indelibly synched Chelsea and the Rawhide’s place in gay history.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".

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