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Proud history: Longtime Park Slope gay bar Excelsior announces closure

Last call: Park Slope gay bar Excelsior will close its doors after 20 years this July.
Brooklyn Paper
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They had a gay old time!

Park Slope’s top queer hangout will close its doors on July 31 after 20 years in the neighborhood.

Excelsior owners Richard Kennedy and Mark Nayden announced the closure of the Park Slope gay bar in a June 3 Facebook post, crediting community pride for the watering hole’s longevity — and rising rents for its closure.

“More than ever, rising costs, like rent and taxes, make your neighborhood bars and restaurants struggle every day,” read the post signed by Kennedy and Nayden. “Twenty years of serving this community is something we are proud of, and in this World Pride Month we plan on celebrating each and every day.”

The owners of the queer watering hole between 15th and 16th streets had been in negotiations with their landlord since their lease expired in October, but the only deal they could settle on was accompanied by a meager one-year extension. Meanwhile, their liquor license — which can only be renewed in two-year intervals — is set to expire on Aug. 1, and the prospect of spending $10,000 for a permit that might become obsolete within the year was what ultimately led the pair to make the decision to close, according to Nayden.

“It didn’t make sense to stretch it out for the couple extra months, versus spending the additional money on our license,” he said.

And Nayden also admitted that queer nightlife has changed in the last two decades, saying the need for sanctuaries catering exclusively to gay and lesbian crowds has diminished as the city at large becomes a more queer-friendly place.

“The younger LGBTQ community does nightlife differently than say a 40 year old and up,” Nayden said. “They didn’t experience that same need for a space only to themselves. They are welcome in more places and that’s a fantastic thing.”

Excelsior first opened in 1999 at another Fifth Avenue location between Sixth and Seventh streets, where Nayden and his partner offered gay Park Slopers a small, intimate place to gather, he said.

“In the old space, I used to say it’s an extension of everyone’s’ living room, a chance for people to relax and have conversations and feel safe,” the barkeeper explained.

The couple were forced to closed that spot after a 15-year lease ran dry in 2014, and Nayden recounted how the property’s owner had agreed to a five-year lease extension, only to turn around and sell the place as the then newly married business partners enjoyed their honeymoon.

Excelsior’s loss was hard felt amid Kings County’s gay community. Perennial LGBT advocate and current mayoral advisor Matthew McMorrow wrote an impassioned editorial lamenting the bar’s loss in Gay City News that year, calling the bar’s 15-year run a remarkable achievement for a queer saloon that existed long before gay marriage.

“By just about any standard, 15 years is a short amount of time. But to measure history by the life of a local gay bar, it was a pretty remarkable 15 years,” wrote McMorrow. “When Excelsior opened its doors, no state recognized same-sex marriage. But that didn’t stop gay people from falling in love.”

Excelsior did not stay closed for long, and within a year Kennedy and Nayden had brought Excelsior to the larger storefront located in a more affordable part of town, where they’ve offered the same live acts in a second-floor space — including comedy, drag, and music — they promise will keep patrons entertained throughout Pride Month and into July.

Nayden couldn’t say whether he and Kennedy would consider opening a third incarnation of Excelsior, but suggested that 20 years of serving Park Slope may be more than enough.

“We are not ready to make a decision on that at this point, it’s a little to raw” he said. “We adore the community and we loved doing what we did, but it’s just not correct to continue.”

Park Slope’s queer community is still served by two other Fifth Avenue watering holes, Ginger’s Bar located between Fifth and Sixth Streets, and Xstasy Bar and Lounge between 26th and 27th streets.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:19 pm, June 4, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
So sad! I will miss that place.
June 3, 4:19 pm
Mustafa Khant from Atlantic Ave says:
Fifteen dollar an hour wage and taxes. Fatal to small businesses.
June 4, 2:12 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆Someone didn't read the article⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆⬆
June 4, 2:19 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Mustafa -- Rent was the main reason, but you decided to invent a different reason. That said, if a small (or large) business can't afford $15/hr for a human worker, then they shouldn't be a business.
June 4, 3:07 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I used to go there back when I was drug-free and still known as Henrietta, guess I will have to stick with Grindr for now
June 4, 4:41 pm
Vision Zero® from Zero Vision® says:
LOL at Henry/Henrietta! 🎀 🍭 ⋆ 🍫
June 4, 6:09 pm
Anna from Coney says:
Open in coney island, we would love a new bar, gay, gender neutral, straight, lgbtq....just any bar really to start some good old gentrification in this place. Beachside is the perfect spot while rent is cheap for now. Oh and bring some good food + younger middle-class folks :)
June 5, 12:15 am
concerned from Greenwood says:
Sad about this.
June 5, 11:43 am
Job destroying says:
15 hr lessens amount of jobs.
June 5, 1:29 pm
Leonard Williams from Prospect Heights says:
Most of us have personal pride ,but so few of us get to have a month or a parade to honor it
June 5, 2:09 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Awwwwww, poor widdow Leonard wants a parade. STFU!
June 5, 2:29 pm
TOM from Brooklyn says:
26th Street is a long walk for a drink and a long trip home to PS when slammed.
June 5, 2:59 pm
Leonard Williams from Prospect Heights says:
Nasty personal sarcasm is a sign of a dysfunctional personality and an infantile intellect. Where would they be if they could not belittle others. But they can't intimidate me or scare me. How truly sad. They deserve our pity.
June 5, 3:12 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
LOL, grow a pair Lenny. You're the one posting nasty personal sarcasm against the gay community. Again I say, STFU!
June 5, 3:18 pm
Martin Malenkov from Coney Island says:
HF from BR can dish it out but he can't take it. We all have a right to our opinion. HF is a loser.
June 5, 3:20 pm
Leonard Williams from Prospect Heights says:
Grow a pair of what? Henry ford doesn't know what he wants where it is, or what it is used for. He is a truly confused personality. See...level of a really marginal human being. WE CAN SALL LAUGH AT HIM, BUT LET'S DO IT QUIETLY. Poor little Henry Ford
June 5, 3:25 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Don't worry widdow lenny, I'll throw you a private parade. Your ego will be back. Come to the bar, We'll turn you out in no time ;) 👬
June 5, 3:30 pm
Martin MalenKov from Coney Island says:
HF from BR is a real loser. Can't argue using facts, and his only weapons are insults and poor sarcasm. He is a poor representative of the gay community and just gives them all a bad name By the way , is an A D-Bag such a vulgar expression that only those of HF's intelligence uses it in such form because it can't be printed? Same goes for STFU?
June 5, 3:33 pm
Henry Finkelstein Ranz from sheepshead bay says:
Henry Ford is getting a little tiresome. Lets all just ignore everything he writes from now on.
June 5, 3:35 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Martin MalenKov has a fragile ego too! I bet he's closeted, the feisty ones usually are.
June 5, 3:39 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Oh great, Fecalstain is here now. Now it's a party!
June 5, 3:39 pm
Huma Abedin from Jiddah says:
Good! Hopefully they’ll turn it into a welcome center for refugees or a masjid - that would be liberal progress! Salaam
June 5, 8:04 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Civilized people welcome refugees, rotten people turn them away. The more you know...
June 5, 8:24 pm
Antoine from Park Slope says:
The shows that would happen with Lailah Lancing and Louvel were a favorite of mine! I will be sad to see this space closed!
June 5, 10:15 pm
Ro from Park Slope says:
Look at the number of empty store fronts around the Slope! Better an empty property than a lower rent. Such a shame. As to the owners of Excelsior: Cheers! You provided a necessary gathering point in the community. Sorry to see you go.
June 6, 5:57 am
Jack says:
The owners are too old, and the bar was too boring to attract a crowd. That’s the problem. It could easily have stayed open if it wasn’t so basic and dated.
June 7, 6:09 pm
TimBukTwo from Park Slope says:
I'm sorry but this bar always missed the bar from day one in its current location. Dated decor, a moody and tired staff and a cramped space just never cut it. Most everyone disliked this place and it was rarely busy. I'll miss it like I'd miss a case of the clap.
June 23, 10:12 pm

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