By Greg Fieser
Originally published on Advocate.com April 15 2009 12:00 AM ET
In August 2007, the venerable West Hollywood nightclub Micky's was engulfed in a devastating fire -- a freak accident that engulfed the space in flames, gutting the West Hollywood hot spot before firefighters could get the blaze under control.
Rumors followed -- "I didn't do it," owner Michael Niemeyer says with a laugh. "Everyone likes to talk, but it was a freak thing" -- but one thing was certain. Micky's would rise from the ashes.
After more than a year and a half of planning, building, and waiting, Micky's is ready for its grand reopening -- transformed into a modern, clean, slick-feeling nightclub that could only come out of a top-down overhaul. The brick walls on either side of the building are the only things that remain from the old structure. With everything virtually destroyed in the fire, architects and designers were free to do whatever they wanted with the new place.
Floors are covered in dark ash-gray hardwoods. The new bar is covered in a milky glass with ever-changing colored LED lights underneath. Dark gray cement-like bricks blend with vibrant orange glass subway tiles on the walls. Most notably different are the outdoor areas and new upstairs VIP lounge -- complete with low tables and ostrich leather banquets. Yes, folks, Micky's has expanded to the second floor, where a new bar and lounge await the throngs of people yet to come. Designers tried hard to make the new place light and bright, and in the daytime, the full glass fronts and giant skylight add to an openness that was sorely lacking in the old place.
Lest you think that all these changes have changed the vibe of Micky's, Niemeyer guarantees that its soul is still the same. She may have on a new party dress, but Micky's is still up to her old tricks: Namely cheap drinks, hot go-go boys, nonstop dancing, and filthy fun for all.
To prove Micky's is still the den of debauchery it always was, "Cocktails With the Stars" is making its way back to the bar -- the one night where regular Joes can rub elbows (and who knows what else) with their favorite porn stars. "It's the hottest mess you'll ever witnessâ€¦ in a good way," promises promoter Scotty B. And for the first time, the show will be broadcast to the world online via www.NickYoungXXX.com .
After years of waiting and wondering, the bandages are finally coming off and the face-lifted Micky's will be unveiled this weekend. Niemeyer took a moment from his hectic schedule and sat down with Advocate.com on the eve of this triumphant event to discuss the trials, tribulations, and traumas of rebirthing a gay landmark.
Advocate.com:WhenMicky's burned down, it was broadcast on the local news as their top story. What went through your mind when you saw your life's work going up in smoke?Michael Niemeyer: Well, I was in Montana when the fire started. I didn't even know! My neighbors were watching the satellite feed of the building burning and they called me up and said, "Get over here!" It was too hard to believe. You always think of these things happening to other people. What worried me most was that my brother [and business partner, Lann] was in the building at the time.
When you found out he was safe and the fire was over, what did you do? I had never paid attention to the insurance, you know, you just pay the thing, so I had no idea if we were covered. I didn't know what would happen.
Did you think of just moving on? It never occurred to us not to rebuild. Our next thought was when can we start it back up again. We had just paid off the building a year before, so we owned it now. Nothing else to do but rebuild.
There was suspicion --[ Laughs ] I didn't do it! Everyone likes to talk, but it was a freak thing. Workers were working on the A/C unit on the roof and it was electrical arcing that followed the path inside the building. It just went up so fast. There was nothing anyone could do.
What has this process of rebuilding been like?There's so much, you literally don't know where to start. First we had to get an architect. Then it took 45 days just to get preliminary drawings. We submitted to the city in December. Blah, blah, blah. It just goes on and on.
Are you concerned about opening a new bar in a troubled economy? Look, I'm not being overly optimistic or arrogant, but we know our business. We bought this place in '88 and people know us. Micky's has a long history -- it was the second [liquor] licensed establishment after Prohibition, it was a roadhouse in the '40s, started being gay in the '50s. Heck, Lana Turner's daughter used to sneak in the back door. We occupy a specific niche in the WeHo landscape -- 50% of our clientele are local; 50% are tourists.
What will the new place be like?It'll be newer and prettier, but you can still smell beer [ laughs ]. I'm not looking to change the vibe. All those who came before will come again. Along with new people who will want to check it out.
Give us an idea of what we'll see when you reopen.Well, we now have a second floor. The first floor is now completely open to the street. The patio is recessed into the lower floor. We have great new lighting and I'm very excited about the giant screens for projected images; you can see them clearly from the street. The city was very encouraging. Our plans definitely improve the block. It's gonna be very hard for people not to come in.
What are you doing to bring in more people after you reopen? We're doing lots of regional advertising -- San Francisco, Palm Springs, San Diego. Also, drink prices will be similar to where they were. We will have cover charges, but nobody minded before. You want to do so much with a new place, but we dialed it back a bit so as not to alienate our core customers -- people who just want to dance and party and have a good time without pretension. I love this community. I'm part of it and I can't wait to be back in the mix again. We've always supported the community and it killed me that we weren't open and around for all that Prop. 8 shit. Gays appreciate other gays and gay businesses.
So are you pleased with the way it has turned out?Oh, very! We're happy to be back.
Michael, honestly, do you really think we need another gay bar?Well, we need the one we had.