Gay Bathhouse Melrose Spa Closes Quietly After 52 Years

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Photos and Text by Paulo Murillo

Melrose Spa, the famous/infamous gay bathhouse that stood at 7269 Melrose Ave in Los Angeles for the past 52 years quietly closed shop in late May due to the loss of their lease. The spa’s lease expired June 30, 2017 with no option to renew. A ‘For Sale’ sign has been posted on the building and there is a flyer at the main entrance explaining that the spa is “permanently closed.”

The bathhouse closed with little fanfare from the local gays that kept it open for so many decades and from the local gay media (until this post that is).

According to Lorenzo Talavera, the Executive General Manager of the former Melrose Spa and three other existing bathhouses, business had been steady at the Melrose location. The bathhouse was experiencing a spike in interest after it added “Temptation Tuesdays,” a special night for transgender girls (TGirls) and their admirers on the last Tuesday of the month. The last day of operations of the spa landed on the last Tuesday of May, so the last day in business ended up being their popular trans* night.

“May 30 was our last day of business.” Talavera told WEHO TIMES. “We lost our lease. That was it. It was a sad day to see it close after being open for so long, but that’s OK. We continue operating and offering our services at Midtowne in Downtown Los Angeles and at the 1350 Club in Wilmington by Long Beach.”

The Melrose Spa first opened in 1966. According to Talavera, it was once a Turkish bathhouse. When the business was purchased, it came equipped with beds and linen, so it was all prepped to become the gay sex spa we all pretend to not know today.

This was the original logo when Melrose Spa first opened

Talavara believes the spa was at its peak during the 70s and 80s, presumably before the AIDS pandemic. “I thought Melrose Spa was smaller and more personal,” he said. “It was only a two-story building and you had the sundeck. It was a more intimate venue. You didn’t have to go through all these floors to get close to someone. If you wanted to have fun with a guy, you’d see him right away.”

The Melrose spa offered free HIV testing and housed a sex therapist in the building. “We offered therapy from the mid-90s all the way up until we closed this past May,” he said. “A lot of people used the service. It was good to have someone to talk to about your issues around sexuality. It was very helpful to our customers and I’m sure it helped some of my employees.”

Talavera started out as a cashier for the 1350 Club Wilmington back in 1991. He now manages the three remaining clubs that are currently owned by a trust.

“Martin Benson was the original owner,” he said. “When Marty passed away in 1988, Scott Campbell took over as president. He also became the trustee of the four clubs, which were Melrose, Midtowne Spa in Los Angeles, The 1350 Club in Wilmington, and the Midtowne Spa in Denver. I became Scott’s assistant general manager and stayed at that position for 15 years, until he passed away last year. Scott was a huge member of the community. He was an actual a member of PCC [Personalized Cognitive Counseling] which was an intervention designed to reduce unprotected anal intercourse among men who have sex with men. He passed away suddenly last December 2nd. Since then, I’ve been in charge of the business.”

Talavera didn’t think it was necessary to reach out to the media about the closing of Melrose Spa. He figured word would get out after the last day of operations was posted on their social media.

“Everyone was invited to the last hurrah. That was pretty much it,” he said. “We thought we’d get some phone calls and that people would reach out, but no one said anything. You’re actually the first to reach out to us. We made it very clear to everybody months before that our closing had nothing to do with anything other than we didn’t get our lease renewed.”

Loopnet.com—a commercial real estate marketplace website—recently listed the Melrose Spa building for sale at a reduced price. The listing states that it is the first time in nearly thirty-four years that the 4,000 square foot property is on the market. “This property is ideal for an owner/user or investor,” reads the listing. “This property is located on Melrose Avenue between Fairfax Avenue and La Brea Avenue, one of the most highly sought after commercial locations in all of Los Angeles. This corridor of Melrose Avenue is filled with a plethora of design tenants, upscale and trendy eateries, boutiques, bars and nightclubs.”

So it’s like, goodbye gay sex bathhouse—hello trendy boutique, straight restaurant, bar, or nightclub. But oooh, if those walls could talk …

“Our regulars at Melrose Spa were sad,” Talavera added. “They were shocked because they go there all the time, but things happen and times change. We have a bigger club downtown. It’s a mega club almost three times bigger than Melrose. It’s also not that far. Just off the 101 freeway. We’ve been renovating the rooms. We have a new pool and a new jacuzzi. Everything is pretty much getting revamped. And you know Downtown is becoming very gay. We are getting a lot of artsy people coming into our club. We invite everyone to come join us at Midtowne Spa in Los Angeles. Everyone is welcome.”

The Midtowne Spa Los Angeles honors the memberships purchased at Melrose Spa. The employees at the Melrose location kept their jobs and were transferred to Midtowne L.A. and The 1350 Club. The transgender night was also moved to 1350.

For more information about Midtowne locations, or to get your dick on, visit midtowne.com.Save

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Paulo Murillo
Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings close to 20 years of experience in LGBT media and more than two decades as a West Hollywood resident. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. Murillo’s work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. He was a contributor to LGBT magazine IN Los Angeles. He is known for the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, in which he covered breaking news and local events in the City of West Hollywood. His recent work has been published in the Los Angeles Blade and his articles, essays and photographs can also be seen on the pages of THE FIGHT Magazine. He started “The Share” feature for THE FIGHT, which spotlights members of the Los Angeles recovery community who share about their sober journey. He can be reached at editor@wehotimes.com

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