The Crew Club, which has operated as a gym, sauna and bathhouse for gay men in the nation’s capital for 25 years, will close its doors for good at its Logan Circle area location on February 29, according to its founder and co-owner DC Allen.
Allen, 63, told the Washington Blade in an interview on Monday that he and his husband, Ken Flick, 70, who bought the Crew Club’s building at 1321 14th Street, N.W. in 2003 after renting it for the club’s first eight years in business, have decided to retire after signing a contract to sell the building in 2016.
“I sold it at the height of the 14th Street market,” Allen said.
When asked if he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse because of the commercial real estate boom along the city’s gentrifying 14th Street business corridor, Allen said, “Yes I was — I was.”
Although Allen didn’t immediately disclose the sale price, public property records with the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue show the 8,000-square-foot, two-story building was assessed by the city at a value of just over $5 million for 2020. The city records show that Allen and Flick bought the building in 2003 through a company they created called Caldwell Middleton LLC for $2 million.
“I sold the building four years ago but it’s closing on April 6,” said Allen. He was referring to a Memorandum of Contract he entered into with the Douglas Development Corporation, one of the city’s largest real estate developers, in June 2016. The contract established intent to sell the building to Douglas Development, which made a $500,000 deposit as part of the deal, city property records show.
The Crew Club’s closing in February will bring an end to the city’s last remaining gay bathhouse. The Club Washington, the city’s longtime gay bathhouse located in the gay adult entertainment strip on the unit block of O Street, S.E., was forced to close along with other gay clubs in the area for the construction of the Washington Nationals Stadium.
One of the clubs displaced by the stadium that reopened in a new location was the Glorious Health Club, which bills itself as an art gallery and gym with a steam room and shower facilities catering to gay men. Since the time it reopened the Glorious Health Club has operated at 2120 West Virginia Ave., N.E.
But in March 2019 the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs ordered the club to close on grounds that its building had multiple building code violations. The club has stated on its website that it plans to reopen and it was hopeful that its “final inspection” by city officials to clear the way for it to reopen would take place Jan. 14 or 15.
LGBT activists have praised the Crew Club for its longstanding support for local LGBT organizations and its leadership efforts to provide safer sex materials and information through cooperation with Whitman-Walker Health, D.C.’s local LGBTQ healthcare provider.
“DC and Ken have been the model of enlightened LGBT business owners, supporting many community organizations while deftly navigating controversies in light of the greater good,” said Rick Rosendall, former president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.
“Their leadership, generosity and level-headed judgment were unmatched, all while maintaining and operating a quality establishment,” Rosendall said. “The Crew Club is a beautiful, well-appointed men’s club and it will be missed,” he said. “But the time comes for all of us to move on, and no one is more deserving of a comfortable retirement than Ken and DC.”
Allen said he and Flick considered but decided against reopening the Crew Club at another location after the sale of the building.
“We sold the building four years ago at the height of the market and we were trying to work out a lease-back program but it just didn’t seem to be working the way I thought would be a profitable thing to do,” Allen told the Blade.
“And the building was worth a lot more than the business,” he said. “So it wasn’t feasible. All that would be left after the building sale is just the name and people don’t want to buy just the name,” Allen said.
“And also, my husband is not feeling particularly well and I have had some health problems,” Allen said. “So I thought it was really time for us to retire. And frankly, I’ve had a really good run for 25 years. And I think we have a pretty good name and I want to keep it that way.”
Allen said he and Flick are undecided over whether to hold a closing party or another event to mark the end of what he calls an important part of their life. He said an announcement would be made soon on whether there would be such an event.