June 28, 2018 at 9:43 am EDT | by Mariah Cooper
Town staff looks back on 10-plus years in business
Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade

Town Danceboutique takes its victory lap this weekend. For many years, the club was the hub of D.C. gay nightlife. Other spaces, such as Cobalt and the long-shuttered Apex and Omega, had dance floors, but Town was always the biggest and most heavily attended. (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Town Danceboutique, a staple in D.C. nightlife, shuts its doors permanently on Sunday, July 1 after more than a decade of serving the area’s LGBT community.

Owners Ed Bailey, John Guggenmos and Chachi Boyle announced the news last June after Bristol Capital Corp sold the building located at 2009 8th St., N.W. to the Jefferson Apartment Group. The space, which became a local gay hotspot, will be turned into an apartment complex.

Since 2007, Town has hosted bear happy hours, performances from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” favorites, appearances from adult entertainment stars, election night watch parties and much more. It was sort of an unofficial successor to shuttered LGBT hubs such as Tracks and Velvet Nation.

Bailey says Town has remained consistently crowded during its 11 years in business. The crowds kept the staff, which fluctuates between 40-50 people, busy. The number has dwindled as staff have begun seeking employment elsewhere as the closing approaches. Town won dozens of awards in the Blade’s annual Best of Gay D.C. readers poll. Its drag cast Ladies of Town were perennial winners for many years.

As for the DJs and drag performers that kept Town buzzing each weekend, it appears that relief and sadness are the consensus. While some have already sought gigs at other establishments, Bailey says others, including himself, are looking forward to a break.

“Many of the people who work with us haven’t had a weekend off in years and they’d like one. I jokingly say all the time I’d like to actually watch ‘Saturday Night Live’ when it’s actually live. It’s been years and years since I’ve actually been able to do that,” Bailey says.

However, the loss of Town weighs heavy on Shi-Queeta Lee who is the last drag performer from the original cast still performing. Lee has worked at the nightclub for more than 10 years.

“I’m very sad to see another one of our safe spaces/venues we call home for some and work for others lost to housing in D.C. Like we need more of them,” Lee says.

Town’s closing follows the shuttering of lesbian bar Phase 1, which ended its 45-year run in 2016.

“I have lived through many closings and openings of bars and how that has shifted over time,” Bailey says. “There have been some voids in there where there has been less nightlife. There have been times where there’s been more. The community adapts to that. It will adapt to this.”

For Bailey, the nightclub’s legacy is making gay nightlife more visible.

“Town has existed in a neighborhood that has taken the concept of the ‘big club’ out of the shadows and the other parts of town that aren’t as accessible and moved it into kind of a front-and-center location and a place that has established gay nightlife as being something that can happen in front of everybody, not just on the other side of town hidden away so that the rest of the city doesn’t have to see it or be confronted with it,” Bailey says.

He believes that the LGBT community is entering a new era in which the Internet allows individuals to connect and forge community in a way that was not accessible before. However, Bailey is still adamant on the importance of a physical space for LGBT people to gather.

Bailey and his Town co-owners are on the hunt for such a place.

“We are aggressively trying to find another opportunity to continue to do what we have done previously,” Bailey says. “We’re not retiring. We’re not stopping. We’re trying. The right opportunity has not presented itself yet and we’re not going to do it unless it’s the right opportunity.”

Town says goodbye with a weekend full of events that have been curated to give patrons the chance to say goodbye without feeling like they’re missing out by just attending one party.

The final Bear Happy Hour is June 29 at 5 p.m. with entry ending at 8:30 p.m.

Later, the final Friday night party for the 18-and-over crowd begins with a sold-out drag show at 9:30 p.m. Tatianna, Shi-Queeta Lee, Ba’Naka, Riley Knoxx and Sasha Adams will perform. Lena Lett, another Town original cast member, will host the show. Entry to the party begins at approximately 11 p.m. DJ Wess will spin tracks upstairs for the night and Back2Back will play music downstairs. GoGo boys start dancing after 11 p.m.

Bailey wants the younger crowd to enjoy their last night at Town just as much as older patrons.

“I’m a proponent of figuring out how to provide an 18-and-over environment for our community because that’s generally a very formative time and you need to have opportunities, to enjoy yourself and to be around people who you feel comfortable around and figure out who you are in the world,” Bailey says. “I wouldn’t want the Friday night crowd to feel slighted as though Saturday is somehow more important even though it’s literally the closing night.”

On Saturday, June 30 Town hosts “The party to end all parties,” according to its website. The drag show, also sold out, starts at 9:30 p.m. with encore performances from Tatianna, Shi-Queeta-Lee, Ba’Naka, Riley Knoxx and Sasha Adams. Lena Lett hosts the show for the final time. Bailey will DJ upstairs and DJ Wess will keep the music going downstairs. Entry to the party begins at 11 p.m.

Admission to both Friday and Saturday parties will only be at the door. For more details on the final weekend’s events, visit towndc.com.

As Town prepares to bid farewell, Bailey says that patron support has made all their hard work on Town over the years “worthwhile.”

“The thing that allows me to keep getting up every day during this process is that inevitably at some point someone will come up to me on the street, in a bar or at the club and say, ‘I know you don’t know me but I just wanted to let you know that I met my husband here’ or ‘I came out here’ or ‘I moved to D.C. and I didn’t have any friends and I found your place and now I have this great group of friends and we all met here,’” Bailey says. “So when people tell us that we’ve accomplished that goal for them in their life and that their life is better for it, that’s the amazing moment that you live for.”

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