Hope dims at Starlite Lounge — oldest gay bar in boro

The Brooklyn Paper
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Longtime regulars of the Starlite Lounge, the self-proclaimed oldest gay-friendly, black-owned watering hole in Brooklyn, are rallying to keep their establishment alive after the building was sold and the new owners signaled that they don’t want the bar on the ground floor.

The watering hole — at the corner of Bergen Street and Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights — has been ordered to close shop by Jan. 15, though bar manager Tim La’Viticus says he’ll fight in court for a lease renewal.

“If we lose this, I don’t know where these people would go,” he said. “They’d be scattered, and there’s nothing like your neighborhood bar.”

La’Viticus and owner Dennis Parrott-King received a letter late last year stating that the building had been sold for about $455,000, a figure confirmed by the Department of Finance. And though La’Viticus admits having been late on the rent once or twice, he is frustrated that he was not offered a chance to buy the building, or offered a new lease.

Next, he got the letter telling him to get out by next Friday.

In the meantime, La’Viticus and Parrott-King are plotting their next move: either taking the new owner to court or moving to get the Starlite Lounge protected as a historic venue.

If the bar isn’t officially the oldest gay bar in the borough, it’s certainly an icon. Some of its patrons who filtered in on Wednesday night — after being buzzed-in by the transgender diva at the door — have been using the place as a community hub for 30 years. Plenty of old-timers still show up, as they have since the Starlite Lounge opened in the 1960s.

“It’s a family — no, it’s a home to a variety of characters around here,” said La’Viticus.

Gay or not, customers don’t have too many options in the neighborhood, added Debbie Griffin, a cousin of Parrott-King and someone who’s been a part of the impromptu family for some 42 years.

“There are very few American black-owned bars left in the community, and even fewer places that cater to an alternative lifestyle,” she said. “It’s a safe-haven for anyone in need, and while it does have a large gay clientele, we say hi to people from all walks on a daily basis.”

Thirty-one-year regular Kim Knott hopes that La’Viticus will be successful in playing the history card.

“The people who come here have bricks in the wall — how can you remove them?” she said.

Starlite Lounge [1084 Bergen St. at Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights, (718) 771-3340]

Updated 5:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Carson from Nevada says:
It's a shame that Brooklyn has lost several decent gay bars, but the Starlite was/is small, dank, cramped, and ever so slightly menacing. Its being right next to a funeral home was/is quite appropriate. I say let it go.
Jan. 7, 2010, 4:07 pm
Kay from Coney Island says:
Maybe people from a long time ago should stay gone. There exists far too few bars/ clubs owned by blacks that cater to a black audience. Even if small, its a place where we can come together to be together. Enough tearing down and self-destructing, We must build and grow together. Starlite, I wish you all the strength and courage needed to prevail.
Jan. 7, 2010, 10:10 pm
vero from crown heights says:
the starlite is a true neighborhood gem. it is so important to keep this amazing part of crown heights' history alive, especially considering the rapid changes the neighborhood is undergoing.
Jan. 8, 2010, 12:31 pm
v from crown heights says:
this is one of the few spaces that people can hang out in this neighborhood. plus, it is totally awesome.

i really don't want to see it go. this is gentrification and we should be doing what we can to stop it.

sign petition here:

join the facebook group here:

they need letters of support! send to thestarlite@gmail - tell them how much you love the bar!
Jan. 8, 2010, 12:33 pm
Sylvester from Beyond says:
I agree with Vale from Kashmir, though I've enjoyed being groped at the Starlite from time to time. The Starlite is a business, not a social service. The owners want to make money, not history, black or otherwise.
Jan. 8, 2010, 12:59 pm
v from crown heights says:
with all due respect sylvester - can't a business do both (make money & history)? there is not another community space like it in the area that folks can relax, listen to good music, and get a beer, let alone one that welcomes LGBT folks.
Jan. 8, 2010, 3 pm
Sylvester from Beyond says:
Hey V. It's not a "community space." It's a business in the community. I miss all the fried fish joints on Nostrand Avenue. (Them was some good eatin'.) But they couldn't make a go of it and they're all gone now. There is probably enough money in "the community" to "save" Starlite. Is there enough will?
Jan. 11, 2010, 11:23 am
Bruce from Fort Greene says:
Is starlight only for blacks, or is anyone welcome?
Jan. 12, 2010, 5:18 am
v from crown heights says:
they call themselves a "non discriminating bar" and all types of people hang out there. honestly one of the most welcoming places i've ever been.
Jan. 12, 2010, 11:09 am
Nai from Bed-Stuy says:
Where else would I go for karaoke with the neighborhood Queers on a Thursday night? I love Starlite lounge. It's intergenerational aspect and sweet as pie bartenders make it a really cozy safe place to have my whiskey on ice any night of the week.
Jan. 12, 2010, 12:48 pm
Toy from Clinton Hill says:
Has there been an update on the status of the closing?
Jan. 12, 2010, 6:19 pm
Bruce from Fort Greene says:
What about gay bowling? Wouldn't that be cool?

Or a gay ski trip?

Maybe that is the answer - at least in my humble opinion.
Jan. 14, 2010, 3:42 am
Carson from Neveda says:
A gay restaurant would be good too.
Jan. 14, 2010, 11:29 am
danny from bronx says:
I hope this place doesn't close
Jan. 16, 2010, 4:13 pm
OrbitBoy3000 from Flatbush says:
This is so disheartening. I have lived here for 3 years and only recently discovered this bar existed.

Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, and Crown Heights have not been so inviting or friendly to non-Black races, let alone a variety of sexualities, so this must have truly been an oasis for a quiet underground of people around here.

Please don't take offense to that observation. I gather that perspective from experience and from conversation with my wonderful neighborhood over the years, so it's not meant as any disrespect to those who don't contribute to such insularity and categorical rejection.

I can't imagine Starlite would just have to vacate with such sudden notice. There must be business tenant laws in place to protect it?

Jan. 24, 2010, 5:45 pm
andre collins from harlem, nyc says:
to whom this may concern, i am writing this comment to express my opinion on the attempt on closing The Starlight Bar & Lounge. I am a dj who has played at The Starlight for more than a year regularly on Friday nights. It's a shame that my community has been shut out of all of our landmark bars and clubs. The Starlight is the last Black Owned bar that has stood thru the test of time. No only should it be acknowledged as a landmark, but also praised to have gone thru several decades to support the gay community. I fully support Tim & Dennis for their full commitment in keeping the bar open. I have traveled from Harlem on the A train, there and back many of nights and have walked away with some wonderful memories and look forward to coming back to have many more. Closing the bar would not only have many, many people scattered, the neighborhood would be losing a piece of history and,break up the "extended family" of so many of us, gay, straight, bisexual, & transgenders. You only have to go once. and you would understand what I am writing about. So three cheers to the fight! Please let me know whatever I can do to contribute to keeping the legenday landmark open!

DJ Andre Collins
Feb. 2, 2010, 6:26 am
kj from bushwick says:
when i lived in crown heights, starlite lounge was my go-to spot. albert, the mon/tues night bartender, remains my favorite bartender in the entire world. i mean it. he offers shards of wisdom and humor along with his delicious and inventive drinks.

everyone at the bar always made me feel welcome and safe.

this is a part of the neighborhood and this bar has been a family run, black-owned business for years. it would break my heart to see the starlite gone.
Feb. 3, 2010, 9:26 pm

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