It was Game 1 of the World Series, and the New York Yankees were getting their clocks cleaned by the Philadelphia Phillies. At Gym Sportsbar in West Hollywood, the mostly male crowd was primarily focused on the unfolding Yankees disaster playing out on the bar’s nine flat screens. Despite the beating being inflicted by the Phillies, one of the patrons wearing a Yankees jersey was beaming. “It can’t be better than this,” he said.
Why? Because Gym is a sports bar, and it’s gay.
The stereotype of a gay nightspot being about Lady Gaga or show tunes has been out of date for years, but a bar where the main focus is sports is groundbreaking for L.A. -- despite the myriad gay sports leagues thriving around town, from the national champion gay flag football team to the rugby and softball leagues. Gay clubs such as MJ’s in Silver Lake roll out the welcome mat for big events like the Super Bowl, while Fiesta Cantina down the street from Gym plays a variety of college games along with the latest dance hits. But a dedicated sports bar, where the audio and video are played simultaneously, is something most people haven’t seen before, says Gym co-owner Rich Schmutzler: “When we first started, I got a lot of Scooby Doo faces, like, ‘huh?’ ”
Along with his business partner Nick Leonard, Schmutzler launched the first Gym Sportsbar in New York City in 2005. The New York Gym was a hit from the get-go, and the pair knew they wanted to reach out to other cities. When the space that used to house the cozy little lesbian bar the Normandie Room became available on WeHo’s Santa Monica Boulevard this year, Schmutzler jumped at the chance to expand.
Of course, Schmutzler knew there were other gay men like him and Leonard, who played sports in high school and went on to be varsity athletes in college. “We had many, many friends like us, who were athletic and who were out,” he says, noting that gay sports fans sometimes felt disenfranchised in their own community.
Schmutzler is pleased with L.A.'s response to Gym, which has a marathon 4-to-9 p.m. weekday happy hour. He knew putting it in the heart of über-fabulous West Hollywood rather than gritty Silver Lake or Sunset Junction would raise eyebrows, but Schmutzler wanted to “bring something a little different” to L.A.'s premier gay neighborhood.
He’s been marketing the bar with those aforementioned gay sports leagues, and he isn’t worried that the end of baseball will hamper business. “There’s always something in season,” he says, adding that Gym will host the USC Lambda Alumni Assn.'s viewing of the USC- UCLA football game Nov. 28.
That openness also spreads to Gym’s commitment to welcome everyone in the gay community.
“The people who appreciate a more relaxed, sports-based environment are as varied as people in the gay community,” he says. “We worked hard . . . so that a diverse group of people feel welcome in our bar as opposed to make it exclusive and exclusionary. We take the fear out of going out.”
Gym Sportsbar Where: 8737 Santa Monica Blvd., West HollywoodWhen: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday; noon to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday Price: No coverContact: (310) 659-2004; www.gymsportsbar.com