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Oil Can Harry's, L.A.'s Historic Gay Line-Dancing Bar, Shutters

Oil Can Harry's

Oil Can Harry's has had its last dance.

The gay country-western bar, which has provided line-dancing and a watering hole for the LGBTQ+ community in Los Angeles's Studio City neighborhood for 52 years, was sold in December to a new owner who plans to convert it into a venue with jazz music, according to owner John Fagan.

In a Monday Facebook post, Fagan revealed that the landlord of the building, Monte Overstreet, had made the sale. Overstreet also owned the buildings housing West Hollywood's Gold Coast Bar, Rage Nightclub, and Flaming Saddles, which all shuttered last year due to failed rent negotiations.

Previously, a November Facebook post on the bar's page had announced plans of a sale but remained hopeful for a reopening. Oil Can Harry's "is closed at this time ... strictly due to COVID-19 and will reopen when allowed," the post read. Sadly, that has not come to pass.

"I fought hard to keep it but just had to give up!" wrote Fagan, who had taken over the reins of Oil Can Harry's after the 2013 death of his partner, Bob Tomasino. "Not sure down the road where it will lead."

"Thank you all for this beautiful gift that we all shared for 52 years," he added. "Please no negative post! It only hurts. Only positive, it helps!! Any help would be wonderful."

Oil Can Harry's was known for its large wooden dance floor, where LGBTQ+ patrons would line-dance and even receive free classes during the early hours of the evening. (No cocktails were allowed on the floor.) The upstairs lounge hosted karaoke. 

Over the years, its famous dancing patrons included RuPaul, k.d. lang, and Geena Davis. LeAnn Rimes and Ty Herndon were among the performers on its stage, reports WeHo Times. The bar was also the setting of the Haim music video, "Little of Your Love."

The venue began as a burlesque club called the Zomba Room in the mid-20th century. Dancing among same-sex partners was illegal at the time. So if the police arrived, a monitor at a spy hole would sound an alarm and the dancing couples would switch partners to avoid a raid, according to manager and bartender Tommy Young.

Messages of love and memories, from patrons old and young, filled the responses to Fagan's post. "Thank you for creating a place that felt like home in a big, new city," wrote Robin Wivell. "I knew I would always leave happy after a night at Oil Can Harry’s. I even brought my parents once I loved it so much! Wishing you all the best and fingers crossed you find a way to continue. Thank you for the memories!

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