August 17, 2010 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
EFN Lounge closes abruptly

EFN Lounge abruptly closed Monday, a week after its general manager departed. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Washington gay bar that had rebooted with a new name and concept 18 months ago closed abruptly Monday night, just a week after the departure of its general manager.

EFN Lounge and Motley Bar, located at 1318 Ninth Street, N.W., near the Convention Center, was a two-concept bar housed under one roof. Former Manager Bill Gray, who’s gay, said sales weren’t strong enough to keep the business afloat.

“We had Bear Happy Hour every Friday and that was amazing for revenue, but we realized that being open every day, we just couldn’t pull in the revenue we needed to sustain the building,” Gray said. “We tried multiple events. Some things worked, some didn’t. … We had utilities turned off and turned back on. It was just a real struggle financially.”

Employees were informed of the decision Monday night. Gay bartender Matt Bamford, who’d worked there four months and is Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2010, said the news came as a shock.

According to Bamford, assistant general manager Raven Cullen, who’s gay and had been managing the bar with Derrick Zann in Gray’s absence, informed him at about 8:30 p.m. Monday that the bar was closing. Bamford said he and the rest of the staff — several of whom were off but came immediately to the bar upon hearing the news — are angry.

“Company standard there was always two weeks notice if we wanted to leave,” Bamford said. “What they did to not just the staff but to the community at large is just unconscionable.”

Gay owners Tom McGuire and Adrian Massiah, who also work together as founder/president and chief operating officer respectively of WorkSpaces LLC, sent an e-mail Monday at 8:40 p.m. informing the staff of the closing.

“With loosing (sic) Bill as general manager combined with the very low sales we have been experiencing over the last few months, we have arrived at the very difficult decision that the bar must be closed,” McGuire said in the e-mail. “My apologies for the abrupt decision and short notice, but we really have no choice. This is the last thing I wanted to do. I wish you all the best moving forward.”

McGuire and Massiah did not immediately return Blade calls seeking comment.

Gray admited EFN Lounge was a tough endeavor and that he’d “checked out and burned out” in January. He also said he was tired of paying business expenses out of his own pocket. Gray noted a dispute about who should pay to settle a small claims lawsuit with a concert promoter who’d sued EFN was the final straw.

“By that point, the slightest disagreement would have made me resign,” said Gray, 34. “It had consumed all my life and I was starting to realize it wasn’t for me.”

McGuire said in the e-mail, “… we had to let Bill Gray go because of issues and circumstances which came to our attention just the week before last.” Gray said he left on his own volition and that he owns the rights to the EFN name and concept.

Bamford said there were days that were slow, but “others were slamming.” He’d never met McGuire or Massiah until Aug. 9 when they came to the bar, introduced themselves and informed the staff of Gray’s departure.

Another gay EFN bartender, Aaron Alexander, said in an e-mail, “I don’t have much to say on the matter. I’m still trying to figure things out myself.”

Bamford is concerned about the bar’s events — some community service oriented such as a condom packet campaign that was held at the upstairs Motley area for the last eight months. Some events have moved to Green Lantern. Local gay event promoter Jacob Pring started his Code and Poz parties at EFN but moved them to Green Lantern several months ago.

“Let’s see, I’m trying to keep this positive,” Pring said. “It worked well for awhile but eventually got to be a bad scenario.”

Gray said the name came as a lark during an extensive remodeling project.

“There was so much stress involved, I found myself constantly saying, ‘This fucking bar, I hate it,’” he said. “So we used that as the name, though technically it stood for Edgy Funky Neighborhood Lounge.”

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

25 Comments
  • Bill screwed over a lot of people. I am sad about the staff, but as far as Bill loosing his job…I could not be happier.

    • Bill was the only person who gave a damn about that place. It was bad management by the owners who did not know anything about the club business. It was in an odd location (the ghetto) and served a ghetto crowd most nights. The only thing saving it was Bear Night and Active Duty Thursdays.

      • Some of you girls come off with such the right names “THE GHETTO” Have you ever thought you moved to the ghetto???? You came to DC D.C didn’t ask you to come here! What a crock you are!

      • Oh and another thing “a ghetto crowd” I guess you’re referencing African Americans???? WOW YOU BETTER WERK Miss One. Isn’t our community such a luvin spoonfull group???? NOT!

    • nobody should ever be happy about someone loosing their job. loosing your job is the worst thing ever. it’s worse than loosing your wallet or loosing your phone. it’s horrible. oh, and learn how to spell, loser.

    • dude… someone losing their job is hurtful enough.. but for you to rub it in thats just sad.. and it shows how much of a coward you are… he was the owners puppet pretty much and tried his hardest to make it a success.. but when they say what goes because they are the owners he has to do what he is told. and he didnt lose his job.. HE RESIGNED…

      • Thank You! If you knew the facts you would know he quit this sinking ship last week…it was the owners who closed this place down. They couldn’t run it without him…

  • How many times does a gay publication have to mention in on estory that each of the people mentioned in the story are gay? Overkill much?

  • The inexplicably unidentified , but well known “condom campaign”, has found a new home at Green Lantern as well. FUK!T 7-9pm on Tuesdays at GL.

  • How can anyone be shocked at this? If one of the owners can’t even spell correctly, how do they expect to run a business? ‘with loosing Bill as general manager…’

  • I’m guessing they couldn’t afford to feed the bears pizza every week. That was an insane feeding frenzy LOL

  • I think the author should have made it easy on himself and only identified those who are NOT gay in the article….which would have been exactly no one. So why did he feel the need to identify each and every person in it as gay? Who cares?

  • I don’t see any real reason to have identified who is gay and not gay in this article. Its really distracting, and a tinge shameful. Are we to be concerned that gay people cannot run a profitable business or something? I hope this writing doesn’t follow any standard for reporting in our community.

  • I think it’s funny how when it was Be:Bar, all was good and business was great. Then, they went after a different theme, which was already being done, well I might add, by the Green Lantern. Bill should of known not to attack a ‘stronger bar’ and they should of stuck to what they knew: a Hip, martini-esq, dance-derived, twink inspired, all people welcome gay bar.

  • It’s karma! Bill came in to the business with the idea he didn’t have to pay his vendors. The universe made him pay dearly!

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