August 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm EST | 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.

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