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August 29, 2008

'Gay friendly' bar won't open in old Moda space

Cleveland--Plans for an “upscale ‘gay-friendly’ lounge” in the former Moda nightclub on West 25th Street were scuppered on August 19 after a local block club voted against supporting developers’ efforts.

Jason Beudert, whose restaurant consulting business opened the 806 Wine and Martini Bar in Tremont, represented a group of silent investors at the Bridge/Carroll/Jay Block meeting at the Carnegie West Branch Library in the Ohio City neighborhood.

Outlining his plans for the space, Beudert drew a distinction between a “nightclub” and a “lounge,” noting that he did not intend large crowds dancing away the night but rather a smaller venue filled with people listening to music while still being able to carry on conversations.

He also noted that, when first envisioning the concept, they were not going to have food, but later decided to have a limited menu available.

He said that the lounge would complement the existing businesses nearby, like Bier Markt, Bar Cento, the Old Angle and the Garage Bar, while also providing a more upscale experience for Cleveland’s LGBT community.

He also addressed other issues that were of concern, including the large capacity of the facility, allowing in only those 21 and over, the noise and aggressive alcohol server training.

The question and answer session after his presentation was alternately courteous and contentious. A couple of questions and comments betrayed minor anti-gay bias, but other statements were attacks on Beudert and his former employers.

One speaker accused Beudert of having made promises to Tremont residents about the 806 Wine Bar that were never fulfilled, but he would not specify what they were.

Others questioned Beudert’s plans to shrink the space inside the former Rialto Theater using hanging draperies, plans for hiring police security and other assurances he had given.

When he first announced his plans, Beudert received immediate opposition from Councilor Joe Cimperman, whose Ward 14 is across the street. He said he would never support another liquor license at the Moda location.

In the end, residents remained opposed to a liquor-licensed facility in the Rialto, with former Rep. Mary-Rose Oakar going so far as to suggest reopening a movie theater in the building.

Moda started off auspiciously, with young, professional crowds and fundraisers for community organizations.

However, before the bar was shuttered two years ago following a federal investigation that accused its owner of laundering drug money, it had become a hotbed of drugs, guns, violence and noise.

Ward 14 Councilor Joe Santiago, in whose ward the building lies, said that he would follow the community’s lead on whether or not to support a lounge there. He was a proponent of another proposed bar at the location, which was shot down last year.

Rialto Corporation, which owns the building, has reportedly rejected other offers to lease or sell the space in the last two years, although the price offered was lower than their asking price, $1.5 million.

The property is assessed by the county at $225,000.

Beudert, even after acknowledging an end to the possibility of moving the bar there, spoke graciously about his hosts at the block club meeting, expressing his thanks that they listened to his presentation.

Some attendees chatting afterwards questioned why another location wasn’t selected.

“That’s something that we’re still revisiting right now,” Beudert told the Gay People’s Chronicle. “At this point, we wanted to respect the wishes of the block club, the elected officials and the community at large.”

“We’ve always stood behind the idea that the concept would do fantastically in the Detroit Shoreway, Tremont or Ohio City areas,” he said, noting that other variations on the theme were also possible, like a more restaurant-oriented venue.

This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.

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