David Cooley opened The Abbey Food & Bar in West Hollywood, Calif., in 1991, when the AIDS pandemic was ravaging the globe. The bar, restaurant, dance club, event space and more soon became a sort of community center for the gay community, and later the LGBTQ community, where Pride, activist events and fundraisers were spearheaded, as well as dance parties, musical performances, celebrity sightings and reality TV episodes. Memories have been created and forgotten at The Abbey, and Cooley says the community that has formed around it has helped it survive the current pandemic.
In this video, as The Abbey approaches its 30th anniversary in May, Cooley discusses how his customer base has evolved as the LGBTQ community has been embraced by mainstream Los Angeles society. Other more specialized gay bars have closed and the community’s transition from being outcasts to being cool hasn’t been without its difficulties, but Cooley said acceptance has always been the community’s goal, and he’s optimistic about The Abbey’s future.
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