Gold Coast Bar in West Hollywood is now permanently closed after serving the community for 39 years. Bryan Worl, who owns the bar with his partner Robert Hastings, officially announced the bar’s closure via a post on his Facebook timeline on September 24.
That same day, Worl promised the bar’s loyal customers that he would open the building one last time so people could stop and visit, take photos, reminisce, and say goodbye to a place that holds many memories to gay men (and women) from all walks of life for almost three decades.
Sadly, the Gold Coast Bar hasn’t seen a patron walk through its doors or served a drink in well over six months during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. The plywood was removed from the windows and the doors were open to air out the place this past Saturday, September 26th. A bush on the side of the building was pruned and sculpted into a phallic symbol as a prank to either send a message to Monte Overstreet, the property owner, or a nod to Vaseline Alley, the former gay cruising hot spot located by the parking lot of the Gold Coast Bar.
A small group of masked men stood at the parking lot. They shared memories while they waited for their turn to going inside the bar for one final look.
Brian Worl sat at the end of the bar surrounded by former employees and loyal customers. The actual bar itself was cut-off from serving drinks. There was no running water, so the toilets didn’t flush. The pool table was buried under boxes, mostly containing Christmas ornaments and other seasonal decor.
Worl was open to talk to everyone. A lesbian couple pulled him aside to thank him for their fond memories. Amy Powel of ABC7 News interviewed him for their segment on the bar’s closing.
Worl also spoke with WEHO TIMES. In the interview below, he discusses the forces that led to the bar’s closure, why they really removed the Gold Coast Bar sign, and what it was like working with their version of the “Real Housewives of West Hollywood.”
How long have you been running the Gold Coast Bar?
My partner for 39 years and I’ve been involved for right around 10 years now.
Did you ever think for a second it would end like this?
No. Never. Never.
Did you ever think it would end?
Everything ends, but instead of 39 years, I thought we’d be here for 50-55 years. I never thought it would come to this. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I think we would totally be open. I don’t think we should’ve been closed. That’s just my opinion.
When did you know it was over?
100 percent? Friday. We were trying to figure things out. People were talking to us about purchasing the property. Monte [Overstreet] told me they wanted to sell the property. Our lease was up on, I believe April, 2021. We tried to to contact them several times with letters and they never responded to us. We tried to ask them to extend our lease and we got zero reply from them. If they would’ve handled it then, maybe it wouldn’t’ve sold, but then the pandemic came and now we’re in this position.
What was the breaking point?
We were going back and forth. It just gave. On Friday, before we had a chance to put anything out, it was on Facebook. Someone said that Monte had given them permission to tell everyone that The Gold Coast bar is closed. Well, the Gold Coast Bar isn’t his property. We own the business. He owns the property. We should have had the proper time to say this and move forward with it. Friday was when we were 100 percent done. Prior to this moment and even now, there are people who want to buy the property. When you can’t communicate with certain people, you can’t handle business. Basically I felt like we were wanted out.
What kind of responses are you getting today?
People are very sad. They are sad that this is happening. People call this place home. It’s funny, there are so many people who coming up to me and saying they were only 18 when they first came in here back in the 80s [laughs]. So many people are saying, ‘I came in here and I wasn’t supposed to be here, but I still got served.’ This was back in the 80s and I’m thinking, my God how things have changed.
What do you think is going to happen to this place?
That, I don’t know. What I’ve been told is the property is going put it up for sale, but they own the Out of the Closet next door and they’re staying, so…
Will you open somewhere else?
We won’t open in West Hollywood. West Hollywood is changing. There is no more gay pride or festival. We thought maybe Silver Lake at some point, or Palm Springs because we have a house in Palm Springs, but that won’t happen until this is all over and you can go into a bar have fun and no mask and have it be like it was. It’s going to be a long time before that happens.
What are you going to miss the most about this place?
I’m going to miss my employees, the customers and just being here talking, having fun, having a drink, just being at the Gold Coast. It’s a bar like no other. And I’m not just saying that because it is my bar. If this wasn’t my bar, it would still be the kind of bar I’d want to go to. I’m going to miss coming here. Some of these people, I’m probably never going to see again.
Looking back what do you think has been the most challenging about running this bar?
Oh my God. There are lot of different personalities. 20 gay men working together is a lot of drama. It all turned out well. We’d always come together and hug it out. It could’ve been a Real Housewives of West Hollywood at the Gold Coast. That’s what made it the Gold Coast. There was drama and then two minutes later, they’d have a shot and hug it out. It’s the way it worked here.
What does your partner say about all of this?
He feels crushed, of course. He’s beyond crushed. He owned this place for 39 years. He owned the Rusty Nail, which was where the Fubar is now. He’s been running gay bars and big businesses. He’s crushed. I think his mind is there, but I think his mind is also in trying to beat cancer. He’s devastated. He can’t come see it for one last time and he could’nt even post it on social media before someone else who doesn’t even come to this bar, to try to be popular.
Circus of Books is associated with Vaseline Alley, but a lot of the gay cruising back in the day happened on your parking lot, wouldn’t you agree?
Oh yeah. This is where it all happened. I’m very grateful to Circus of Books because we fed off of each other. They were great. Before Chi Chi LaRue took over that place, we were really connected to Circus of Books. The people here were crossing that street and going back and forth, back and forth. People would go there and come here. And people would have a drink here and go there. That happened a lot. 10-15 years ago this entire city was a different place.
For the record, why did you take down the sign above your entrance?
I didn’t take the sign down because we were closing. We hadn’t made a decision yet. I took it down because so many people were talking about it, and we were afraid somebody was going to take it. They said they wanted that sign to put in like a West Hollywood museum. It had nothing to do with us closing.
What happens to this place after today?
We clean it out and call it a day. We don’t have a set date on paper, but we want to be out of here as soon as possible. Hopefully we’ll be out within the next week.