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Last stop for Redline: The gay bar is closing despite downtown LA optimism

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Redline, the gay venue named for the downtown Los Angeles subway line, has closed.

The midsize restaurant and bar and sometime performance space recently announced that Saturday, March 2 was its “last stop.”

Owner Oliver Alpuche opened the 6th Street location with high hopes in 2015, as the revival of downtown Los Angeles, or DTLA, reached critical mass. Redline joined new LGBTQ+ outposts Precinct and Bar Mattachine in the downtown district opening the same year, and legendary, and still thriving New Jalisco Bar.

Of the three new kids on the block, only the cop-themed Precinct remains open after Saturday.

Following years of so-so sales and a vibe that eluded distinction, owner Alpuche says the pandemic finally drove Redline off the tracks.

“We need to start fresh,” he told KCRW News. “Many businesses have shuttered their doors because of COVID and the amount of debt they got into. We were one of the lucky ones to finish out our lease.”

The writing was literally on the wall in 2021 as Alpuche’s brother posted to a GoFundMe page, “Redline is dying and needs your help!”

The venue never recovered.

“It’s weird because liquor costs aren’t that bad, right?” Alpuche speculated. “They stayed the same. But if you look at groceries and food and plastic goods, and everything else that it costs to run a bar — juices, pineapple, ice — everything has taken a minimum 20% increase.” 

Inflation aside, Redline’s closure is also part of the churn of gay venues typical in Los Angeles, where patrons are discriminating as well as fickle. The Cheers energy Alpuche aspired to was a tough sell for nightlife denizens looking for buzz and the next big thing. Redline never managed either.

Gay nightlife institutions closing in the last few years include The Gold Coast and Rage in West Hollywood and legendary line-dancing watering hole Oil Can Harry’s in Studio City.

New LA venues include Honey’s at Star Love, a lesbian bar in East Hollywood that recently made Esquire‘s list of “42 Best Gay Bars in America”; The Ruby Fruit, a charming little wine bar for the “Sapphically Inclined” in Silver Lake; and Hi Tops, the San Francisco and West Hollywood sports bar, now in Los Feliz.

Ultimately, Redline’s most potent competition were the dozens of hotel bars, new restaurants, and performance venues that have proliferated around DTLA, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Koreatown, the Arts District and the (formerly Staples) Arena, before and after the pandemic.

Despite challenges, downtown LA stakeholders remain bullish on the area’s future. 

Alpuche hopes he’ll be on the upside of another LA nightlife churn with a new downtown venue he’s calling Kiso, in the works with a former Redline barkeep.

Waving so long to Redline is “bittersweet,” says the owner.

“I’ve heard so many lovely comments and appreciation for what Redline became. And, of course, I don’t want to lose that. But it’s not a goodbye,” Alpuche says. “It’s, ‘I’ll see you later.’”

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