July 5, 2018 at 2:41 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Cobalt building is for sale
Cobalt, gay news, Washington Blade

Cobalt’s owner says the bar will remain open despite the buildings it occupies being for sale. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

An online announcement by a Realtor that the building in which the D.C. gay bar Cobalt is located is for sale and a large “For Sale” sign hanging on the side of the building has created a stir among the popular bar’s customers.

Cobalt has leased the building at 1639 R St., N.W. just off 17th Street since it first opened there nearly 20 years ago. In a Twitter message posted on its website Cobalt says its lease has “options” and the bar “will be around ‘till at least 2021.”

“It is no secret that Cobalt building has been for sale and [it’s] also no secret that the owner of Cobalt does not wish to buy the real estate,” the Twitter message says. “But Cobalt has a lease with options and will remain open during and after the sale of the building,” the posting says.

“Then it’s whatever the New Bldg Owners decide to do. Or the Owner of Cobalt can renew his lease,” the Twitter message says.

Cobalt owner Eric Little couldn’t immediately be reached.

The For Sale sign hanging on the building says the sale is for three commercial townhouses, two of which make up the Cobalt building – 1639 and 1641 R St. The third building, which is next door to the Cobalt building, has the address of 1637 R St. and is the former location of the Townhouse Tavern, which closed several years ago and has been vacant.

Nick Gill of H.A. Gill & Son Realtors, which is representing the buildings’ owners, said the combined sale price for all three addresses, which are being sold together, is $4.2 million. He said the owners left strict instructions that they do not wish to talk to the press about the sale and they would have no comment on how long Cobalt could remain in the building after the sale.

Property records from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue show that the Cobalt building at 1639 and 1641 R St., N.W. is owned by CALLA Group 1639 R Street LLC. The records show that the adjacent building at 1637 R Street, N.W. is owned by Manuel F. Pena & Robert F. Callahan Trustees. Sources familiar with the buildings believe the two entities are owned by the same people.

News that the Cobalt building is for sale surfaced less than a week after the D.C. gay nightclub Town Danceboutique closed its door due to the sale of the building it leased to a developer that will soon raze the building and begin construction of a high-rise apartment complex.

The Cobalt development also comes a short time after news surfaced that the building in which the D.C. gay bar Bachelors Mill has been located for 30 years was sold in an auction. The new owner has refused to disclose whether Bachelors Mill will be allowed to continue operating in the building, and the Bachelors Mill owner hasn’t respond to a request by the Blade for comment.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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