Tag Archives: Cedar 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

Woodmen Don’t Spare Westport Trees

The Longshore trees have been granted a temporary reprieve.

But before 2013 is consigned to the compost heap of history, let’s look back on some other Westport trees that are now just a memory.

Judy James maintains a Facebook album called “In Memoriam — Westport Trees.” She writes:

An urban forest provides great value in many different areas, such as increased resale values for residential properties, savings from decreased heating and cooling costs, reduction of air pollution, and control of erosion from storm water runoff. It has been estimated that a tree with a 50-year life span provides nearly $60,000 of benefit over its lifetime.

There’s no indication how many of the trees below were older than 50 years, or diseased or dangerous. But here are 4 photos Judy posted, to show how dramatically the removal of just a couple of trees can change a landscape.

These trees -- at the intersection of aptly named Cedar Road and the Post Road -- were cut down to make way for the new building that replaces the Cedar Brook Cafe.

These trees — at the intersection of aptly named Cedar Road and the Post Road — were cut down to make way for the new building replacing the Cedar Brook Cafe.

All it took was the removal of one tree to dramatically change the look of McDonald's.

All it took was the removal of one tree to dramatically change the look of McDonald’s.

Last summer saw the removal of a couple of trees that long stood near People's Bank, on the corner of the Post Road and North Compo.

Last summer saw the removal of a couple of trees that long stood near People’s Bank, on the corner of the Post Road and North Compo.

Two views of the same spot, on South Compo Road.

Two views of the same spot, on South Compo Road.

Bye Bye Brook

With just a few bites of a bulldozer, the Cedar Brook Cafe is history.

When “the Brook” closed last June — after 71 years — it was the oldest continually operating gay bar in America.

Today — 8 months after the disco ball took its last spin, 2 weeks since the roof caved in from heavy snow — the corner of the Post Road and Cedar Road is just a pile of rubble.

Tomorrow — or soon thereafter — it may be a parking lot for Starbucks.

Unless a bank or nail salon gets there first.

And a few years from now, newcomers will think we’re kidding when we say that right there — across from Walgreens, just down from the diner — Westport once boasted one of the most historic gay bars in the country.

Sic transit Gloria Gaynor.

Putting The ‘Cafe’ Back In The Brook

Lili might be taking the “cafe” in Cedar Brook Cafe a bit too literally.

News that the Brook — not a cafe, but perhaps the oldest continually operating gay bar in the country — is closing tonight prompted a call from the owner of Lili’s, the breakfast food/caterer on the eastbound platform of the Saugatuck railroad station.

She said she’s happy to offer her space to patrons of the Cedar Brook.  There’s plenty of parking at night, and she serves great food.

(She has no liquor license, so patrons would have to BYOB.)

I told Lili that the Cedar Brook is not really a cafe — it’s a gay dance club.

“They can dance here,” she said.

Lili would love to talk further with anyone interested in resurrecting the Cedar Brook at her place.  Her phone number is 203-434-1205.

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.”