The Rawhide is gone. After 34 years of holding down its corner of Chelsea, the bar closed for good on March 30.
And before the sweat has dried, already the space has come onto the market, with the realtor's sign hammered on top of its black awning, calling for "corner restaurant/retail" beneath the rainbow flag still flying.
The real estate listing for 212 Eighth Avenue includes a marketing brochure on the property. It highlights "neighbors" like The Gap, Starbucks, American Apparel, and many other national chains. However, it fails to mention the big Salvation Army right next door and the block's gay sex shops, The Blue Store and Rainbow Station (two businesses targeted by Chelsea's anti-sex brigade).
In addition, the brochure offers a delirious map of Chelsea pocked with countless chain-store logos. We know more is coming. We won't be surprised when we see a sickening 7-Eleven slithering into this spot, or a frozen-yogurt banality, another dead-eyed bank branch, a cupcake horror. We know the drill.
Says JVNY reader Chris, "As Chelsea turned into a bro, mommy, tourist, chain-store hell-hole, Rawhide became more than just a home for those who are not into 'marriage equality' and Grindr. It became a breaker holding back the forces of corporatization in Chelsea. We needed Rawhide because it stayed true to itself, and it was never going to become mainstream. It was not a bar full of zombies. Rawhide was real--and in a city that has become utterly fake and meaningless, we needed it more than ever."
As of this weekend, the bar's name has been ripped from the awning. A souvenir? Or an erasure?
As for last week's goodbye party, the place was packed. I said my goodbye earlier, to avoid the crushing crowd, but reader Chris was there (so was The Urban Bear). Chris reports:
"The room was wall-to-wall, with about four layers of men standing in front of the bar, and 3 or 4 biological women. Rawhide was never a place that lots of women went to, and it took a special kind of fag hag to go there. There was porn playing on the screen in the corner, and the go-go boys were classic: hot, young, and high, totally willing to go there for a dollar or more. There was nothing sanitized about them.
Around midnight the head of one of the bear groups got up and made a speech in honor of Rawhide. At one point he admonished gay men to 'Get off Grindr! Get off Manhunt! Get off Scruff! Go to bars to meet men!' The crowd roared. But one 20-something next to me just kept scrolling his device."
Reader Timmmy K. shot some video in those final hours at the bar:
Saving my drink tickets until the new Rawhide opens...
The Rawhide Closure
An Interview with the Owner