A new (fancy) life for Silver Lake’s Black Cat Tavern

Oct 11, 2012

In the same Silver Lake space that only last year hosted Spanish-language drag shows,  sleek chandeliers now dangle from an ornate ceiling in a room with dark-wood paneling and dark-green banquettes. Welcome to The Black Cat, a new Sunset Junction bar and restaurant that has adopted the name of an old bar that operated in the same space more 40 years ago and played an important role in the gay rights movement.  Tonight, the owners of the new Black Cat hosted a sneak peak of the yet-to-open Sunset Boulevard nightspot that raises the opulence factor among Sunset Junction bars and restaurants.

It was only a year ago that the same space was home to Le Barcito, a Gay Latino bar that opened several years after the original Black Cat Tavern closed.  In 2009, the L.A. Weekly named Le Barcito as Best Club the  Black Cat Dragged In.  “Things change,” said Silver Lake resident and activist Wes Joe, who advised the new bar owners of the Black Cat’s historic significance.

In 1967, LAPD officers beat and arrested gay patrons at the Black Cat, triggering one of the nation’s first gay rights demonstrations. In 2008, the city declared the building a historic landmark.  While the Black Cat closed and the name of the bar changed,  a smiling image of a black cat – a hold over from the old bar – still hangs over the front of the building.

“It’s amazing history,” said Black Cat owner Charlie Conrad, who also owns the Village Idiot on Melrose. Conrad, who lives in Silver Lake, said he became aware of the bar’s history as he was looking into leasing the space.  In addition to adopting the Black Cat name, the new bar will also feature historic photos and display. “We want to embrace that,” Conrad said of the bar’s history. “Let’s not forget it.”

Conrad declined to say when the new Black Cat would officially open. But he indicated he was working on opening another business in the vacant laundry mat next door.

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