Tag Archives: Brook Cafe

Friday Flashback #197

June is Gay Pride Month. Which means it’s a great time to look back — with pride — on the decades when our little suburb was home to a gay bar.

And not just any gay bar. But the oldest continually operating gay bar in the country.

Today the Brook Cafe has been replaced Patio.com. Almost exactly 10 years ago — on June 10, 2010 — I wrote this:


Once upon a time, Westport had both a gay bar and a strip club.

Right next to each other.

The gay bar was The Brook. It sat on the Post Road near the Exit 18 connector — directly across from the state police barracks.

The strip club — Krazy Vin’s — was next door, directly across Cedar Road.

Today the state police barracks is Walgreens. Krazy Vin’s is Starbucks [and now, Earth Animal].

The Brook — now called the Cedar Brook — is still there. The gay bar outlasted them all.

But it won’t last much longer. A closing party is set for June 26.

The building has been sold. The new rent is out of bar owner Clem Bellairs’ reach.

I’m sure whoever owns it will tear it down. It’s a ramshackle old building — scary, almost — and whatever is erected there will be much more profitable than a gay bar. (I don’t pray often, but please God, don’t let it be a bank.)

Before it goes, let’s pay our respects to a bit of Westport lore — and, believe it or not, a nationally historic place.

At 71 years old, the Cedar Brook has been called the oldest continually operating gay bar in the United States. (The former record holder, it’s said, was in New Orleans — and demolished by Katrina.)

For 7 decades, every gay boy growing up in Westport has told the same story.  Knowing there was a gay bar right down the street created both tremendous excitement (there are people like me!) and abject fear (what if someone sees me looking at it?). Wondering who — and what — lurked behind those ramshackle walls consumed gay teenagers. (Straight kids wondered too.)

One summer in the 1970s, a college friend visited. To show off my town, I decided to take her to every bar from the Norwalk line to Fairfield.

(Note to young readers: Yes, Westport had many bars. Still, don’t try this today. The world was a different place then.)

These trees — at the intersection of aptly named Cedar Road and the Post Road — were cut down to make way for Patio.com.

By the time we made it to the Brook, it was 1 a.m. The place was packed. The music was loud; the dance floor looked amazing. This was my chance to finally get inside!

A bouncer blocked the way.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re fine” — he pointed at me — “but the lady can’t enter.”

What?

“The lady cannot come in,” he replied. “This is a gay bar.”

So we went next door, to Krazy Vin’s.

The view from what is now Earth Animal.

Like an aging drag queen, the Cedar Brook is now past its prime. Crowds are down; even the traditionally huge Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving party — when newly out college guys discovered with glee who else had recently come out — lost its luster in recent years.

The crowd became mixed — lesbians “integrated” the Cedar Brook in the ’80s, and a few straight people (drawn by the powerful sound system and large dance floor) followed.

But it was hard to sustain a gay club in suburban Fairfield County in the 2000s.

Times change. Westport no longer has a police barracks — or a strip club.

Soon it will no longer have a gay bar, either.

The disco ball will spin for the last time.

The bartenders will put on their shirts.

And some other place, somewhere, will say with pride: “We’re the oldest continually operating gay bar in America.”

The Brook Lives!

Amid all the political signs at the Greens Farms railroad station (though there’s a remarkable paucity for the presidential candidates*) — one stood out Sunday for Oliva Schoen.

brook-1

(Photo/Oliva Schoen)

Then she saw a few more nearby.

And one on the Post Road.

If you’re wondering: They’re true. The Brook — aka as the Brook Cafe, and the Cedar Brook — was said to be the oldest continually operating gay bar in America, when it closed 6 years ago.

It was located on the Post Road near the Sherwood Island Connector — right across from what were then state police barracks. (It’s Walgreens today.)

There’s no word on whether SEWHIP (“so hip”) — Society to Expose Westport’s Historically Important Past — will put up a sign recalling Krazy Vin’s. That’s the strip joint that operated where Starbucks is today. You know — directly oppposite the Brook.

Those were some days!

(Want to know more about Westport’s gay bar? Click here.)

*Go figure

Mourning 2 Sycamores

Trees falling in forests may or may not make sounds.

Those chopped down on the Post Road definitely create noise.

Two alert “06880” readers emailed me about the 2 big sycamores felled this week at the site of the former Brook Cafe, across Cedar Road from Starbucks.

Brook 2

Jo Ann Davidson — who took these pictures — wrote:

Nobody was there to ask about it. Could they have been planted by the Beautification Committee years ago? Do we have a tree warden anymore?

The Post Road landscaping distinguishes our section from neighboring towns. Big trees cool all that pavement. I am sad to see 2 of them disappear.

I’m not sure if they were part of the 1970s-era Post Road beautification project — an effort that continues to bear fruit. We do have a tree warden, but he is very part-time. And he does not live in Westport.

Brook 1

Another alert reader wrote:

Who makes a decision like this? Who paid for the cutting? Weren’t the trees within 10 feet of the road? If so, didn’t it need to be approved by the town? Don’t the Green Task Force, Tree Board or Beautification Committee get involved with a decision like this? These were extremely healthy trees and balanced the corner nicely with those in front of Starbucks.  It is outrageous that the trees were taken down to leave yet another barren landscape.

When the town put sewers on that stretch of road, they removed 2 trees from in front of Sherwood Diner. The town never replaced them.

When I asked the diner owner about the tree removal, he lamented that his electric bills for AC had sky-rocketed during the summer months.  Yet there still are no trees in front of Sherwood.

It is such a simple thing to help make Westport a beautiful place.  It starts with not removing healthy trees and greenery.

Brook 3

The Brook Bites The Dust

Once upon a time, Westport had both a gay bar and a strip club.

Right next to each other.

The gay bar was The Brook.  It sat on the Post Road near the Exit 18 connector — directly across from the state police barracks.

The strip club — Krazy Vin’s — was next door, directly across Cedar Road.

Today the state police barracks is Walgreens.  Krazy Vin’s is Starbucks.

The Brook — now called the Cedar Brook — is still there.  The gay bar outlasted them all.

But it won’t last much longer.  A closing party is set for June 26.

The building has been sold.  The new rent is out of bar owner Clem Bellairs’ reach.

I’m sure whoever owns it will tear it down.  It’s a ramshackle old building — scary, almost — and whatever is erected there will be much more profitable than a gay bar.  (I don’t pray often, but please God, don’t let it be a bank.)

Before it goes, let’s pay our respects to a bit of Westport lore — and, believe it or not, a nationally historic place.

At 71 years old, the Cedar Brook has been called the oldest continually operating gay bar in the United States.  (The former record holder, it’s said, was in New Orleans — and demolished by Katrina.)

For 7 decades, every gay boy growing up in Westport has told the same story.  Knowing there was a gay bar right down the street created both tremendous excitement (there are people like me!) and abject fear (what if someone sees me looking at it?). Wondering who — and what — lurked behind those ramshackle walls consumed gay teenagers.  (Straight kids wondered too.)

One summer in the 1970s, a college friend visited.  To show off my town, I decided to take her to every bar from the Norwalk line to Fairfield.

(Note to young readers:  Yes, Westport had many bars.  Still, don’t try this today.  The world was a different place then.)

By the time we made it to the Brook, it was 1 a.m.  The place was packed.  The music was loud; the dance floor looked amazing.  This was my chance to finally get inside!

A bouncer blocked the way.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “You’re fine” — he pointed at me — “but the lady can’t enter.”

What?

“The lady cannot come in,” he replied.  “This is a gay bar.”

So we went next door, to Krazy Vin’s.

The view from Starbucks.

Like an aging drag queen, the Cedar Brook is now past its prime.  Crowds are down; even the traditionally huge Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving party — when newly out college guys discovered with glee who else had recently come out — lost its luster in recent years.

The crowd became mixed — lesbians “integrated” the Cedar Brook in the ’80s, and a few straight people (drawn by the powerful sound system and large dance floor) followed.

But it was hard to sustain a gay club in suburban Fairfield County in the 2000s.

Times change.  Westport no longer has a police barracks — or a strip club.

Soon it will no longer have a gay bar, either.

The disco ball will spin for the last time.

The bartenders will put on their shirts.

And some other place, somewhere, will say with pride:  “We’re the oldest continually operating gay bar in America.”