Pasadena’s only gay bar is back with no cover, karaoke and drag

A drag queen performs on a small stage, surrounded by a clapping audience.
Drag queen Nico Cervantes, stage name “Borgia Bloom,” is back onstage at the Boulevard, Pasadena’s only gay bar.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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The Boulevard Bar

3199 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107

Hours
Tuesday - Sunday
6 p.m. - 2 a.m.
No Cover

Drag on the Boulevard
Fridays at 10 p.m.

After 15 months of being closed because of the coronavirus outbreak and coming close to going out of business, the Boulevard, the only gay bar in Pasadena, is open once again, with no social distancing and with live entertainment. Still, to be safe, owner Steve Terradot is allowing in only people who say they are fully vaccinated. Terradot says, “There’s a double celebration going on here. A lot of people see this as the end of COVID, that it’s safe to go out and mingle, so people are just happy to get here and be amongst their friends and celebrate. There’s also those people that are celebrating just being back in their gay bar.”

Two people perform karaoke on a colorfully lit dance floor at the Boulevard.
Julie Hidalgo, left, and Gabby Zavaleta, of Los Angeles, perform karaoke at the Boulevard.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Also celebrating are performers like drag queen Nico Cervantes, stage name “Borgia Bloom.” “So, before we had to wear a mask and a shield, it was really humbling because as drag queens we lip sync, we use our lips, we use our mouth, we use our expressions, and we couldn’t do any of that, you just literally got to see our eyes. We would take tips with buckets and butterfly nets. Part of drag culture, the tipping portion, is not only for the queen to make money but it’s interactive, you have a connection when you grab that dollar bill with each person that comes and [you] make them feel special, make them feel like they’re part of the show.”

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Owner Steve Terradot sits at the bar at his gay club, the Boulevard.
Owner Steve Terradot managed to keep the Boulevard afloat during the pandemic with help from Mark Lanza and Mark Chou, who started a GoFundMe.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The Boulevard was saved thanks to efforts like those from longtime patrons Mark Chou and his partner, Mark Lanza, who started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the bar and donated their time to help with needed repairs. The two Marks refer to the Boulevard as the gay “Cheers” (referring to the long-running television series) because there are so many regular customers who know your name. Lanza, who moved to Los Angeles 30 years ago from Louisiana, says, “I was used to small-town type bars, and after 30 years this is the only place I’ve ever found that feels like this.. It’s a gay bar, it’s a straight bar, it’s a trans bar, it’s a drag bar, it’s a karaoke bar, it’s a bar you can go to no matter who you are and feel comfortable. Everyone loves to come here because it’s just fun, it’s just a great place to hang out with friends and meet new people.”

A shirtless man walks among people seated at tables.
Bartender Jamal Glasgow, left, walks among customers at the reopened Boulevard.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

On a Friday night when people sang and listened to karaoke until 2 a.m., closing time, owner Terradot was very thankful to be back with his employees, friends and customers, seeing so many people having a good time. “There’s an energy level in there that I haven’t felt in years. Everybody is happy — that’s the best thing. Do you know that old saying about taking things for granted? I almost feel like I had taken it for granted and that it was always going to be here and then when it was gone, you know what I feel right now, total gratitude. I am so happy that we’re back here because during COVID I wasn’t sure that we were gonna get back here. Now we’re back here and it feels incredible.”

Regulars band together to save the Boulevard, the only gay bar in Pasadena and a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in the area and beyond.

Drag queen Te Jay McGrath, stage name "Tia Wanna," reaches for the hand of an audience member.
Drag queen Te Jay McGrath, stage name “Tia Wanna,” performs at the Boulevard in Pasadena on June 18, 2021.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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Mark Chou, left, and his partner Mark Lanza sing karaoke.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
A drag queen surrounded by an audience of men.
Drag queen Nico Cervantes, stage name “Borgia Bloom,” missed the social interaction with the audience while performing with a facial mask.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Two people performing karaoke.
Gabby Zavaleta, left, and Julie Hidalgo of Los Angeles perform karaoke at the Boulevard.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Four people clink glasses in a toast at the Boulevard.
Denise Valenzuela, left, Christina Torres, Jack Hall and Eric Huang celebrate the first night in over a year of no social distancing restrictions and the return of live entertainment at the Boulevard.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
A crowd drinks and celebrates being back inside a bar.
Luigi Gonzalez, left, Harmony Kasper, foreground, Andrew Hernandez and Emilio Rodriguez, behind, enjoy the return of karaoke at the Boulevard.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Drag queen Raymond Gerona, stage name "Blisila," walks into the crowd at the Boulevard.
Drag queen Raymond Gerona, stage name “Blisila,” interacts with the crowd at the Boulevard on June 18, 2021.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)