The Roosterfish, the funky gay bar that has been a landmark on Abbot Kinney Boulevard for more than three decades, will permanently close its doors later this year. Bartender Gaetano Jones confirmed the news on Wednesday via Facebook, saying, “So yes the rumors are true… After 37 years of business, The Roosterfish is closing for good in May.”
The closure leaves L.A.'s beachside LGBTQ community without a dedicated gay bar for the first time since the 1940s. (An even older gay bar in Pacific Palisades, the Friendship, closed in 2005.) According to Frontiers Media, Gaetano later confirmed that a rent increase is what's forcing owner Gary Mick to close.
The Roosterfish was founded in 1979 by Walter Schneider and B. M. “Alex” Alexander, who were also behind one of West Hollywood's first gay bars, the Gallery Room. They decided to open a bar in Venice after they moved to the neighborhood and realized it lacked a gay-friendly watering hole.
The bar's name was often assumed to be a sly sexual reference, but according to the Roosterfish's website, the origin of the name is more innocent: “As Walter and Alex enjoyed sailing off the coast of Mexico near Cabo San Lucas, they named their new establishment after a feisty species of game fish know as a 'roosterfish.'”
By 2006, both Schneider and Alexander had passed away, and the bar was bequeathed to a small group of friends and loved ones, including Mick, who took over management of the bar and left it largely unchanged in the years since.
Todd Spero, a Venice resident who had been going to the Roosterfish for “close to 20 years” and occasionally DJs there, says the closure will be a major loss not just for gay nightlife, but for the entire neighborhood. “It was more than just a bar,” he says. “It was a whole community of people.”
Venice's gentrification woes have been well-documented, in this publication and elsewhere, so the Roosterfish's closure doesn't come as a surprise. But as one of the neighborhood's oldest surviving establishments, gay or straight, its demise seems especially symbolic of how rapidly the once laid-back enclave, full of artists, hippies and surfers (and, to be fair, gangs), has transformed into one of L.A.'s priciest communities.
“We're just losing Venice in general, all of Venice,” says Spero, who mentions the Brig as the sole surviving remnant of Abbot Kinney's pre-gentrification past. “I don't even recognize the place anymore. Artists are being kicked out. A two-bedroom apartment is now $4,500 a month. Gentrification happens, but it's just happened here so fast.”