I remember the first time I went to G-Lounge.
It was 2012, the year I moved into the city. I showed up here with no money, no job prospects and no friends. I wanted to be a writer: This is where writers come to write, isn’t it?
I managed to make one friend via random Facebook friend requests, Paq. Paq had lived here ages, and (unlike all of my other random Facebook friend requests) actually wanted to hang out with me, not just have sex with me or see my dick pics.
Paq was the queen of happy hour specials, which was kind of essential since I had no job and he usually bought my drinks. He lived in Hell’s Kitchen, but to branch out, we wandered down into Chelsea, and into G-Lounge.
We walked into a big open room that I was sure functioned as a pseudo-dance floor later at night, but now it was just spacious and calm. Homoerotic photos, framed with care, hung on the walls.
I’d later learn that the art rotated to showcase different local artists, including Roger Wingman – I’d meet him in 2014, and attend the premiere party for his G-Lounge showcase “Be Mine” in 2016.
G Lounge best known for the original Frozen Cosmo included in their buy-one-Get-one-free drink specials and included my favorite: margaritas.
We sat at the bar for our first drink, chatting with a friendly bartender about “RuPaul’s Drag Race”- I’d never seen the show before. We sat on the couches outlining the dance floor for our second drink, watching patrons come and go, a lot of gay boys bringing family, what appeared to be their mothers. I wished my family lived closer, that I could take them out for a drink after work. We stood by the window for our third drink, right next to a stand with Get Out! Magazine. I picked up a copy and skimmed it, no idea I’d be writing for them by the end of 2015.
That night, G-Lounge was a reminder of my past and a premonition of my future. But I lived in the moment, right in the present, even when drinking our fourth drink – because it’s buy-one-get-one, we can’t possibly waste that, right?
G-Lounge opened in 1997. I was 7 years old, playing with Barbies, dressing them up in cocktail dresses and gowns just like the drag queens I hadn’t yet met.
Years before he opened it, Michael McGrail was working as a chef at The Waldorf Astoria; he’d been working in hospitality since he was 15. He felt gay nightlife in NYC was missing something and became inspired by his hotel’s upscale lounge.
McGrail made his inspiration a reality. New York needed a place like G-Lounge: During Reagan’s presidency, a recent memory at that time, the president had silenced the surgeon general about HIV and AIDS. McGrail wanted to create a safe place, a place that was out and proud. As he said to me last week, “It’s a nice, respectful place to come and be proud of.”
Now, just a week after winning the Glam Award for Best Bar Party (Glow), McGrail has announced that G-Lounge will be closing its doors.
I have so many friends who have been employed there, from bartenders to DJs to drag queens. So many friends who have had their artwork displayed there.
I have so many memories there. Happy hours with Paq. Great dates and terrible dates alike. Meeting my best friends for support after a breakup. Meeting my best friends to celebrate a new job. Just last June, we celebrated my boyfriend’s birthday there, ringing it in at midnight.
After 20 years, we are losing a New York City staple, and a place that I have called home. “This place has dignity,” McGrail told me. “It has dignity.”
I once asked McGrail the craziest thing that ever happened to him at G-Lounge. “Well,” he smiled, “for the 2001 Memorial Day weekend, G-Lounge transformed into a beach resort. There was a seven-foot chair we built to hold a buff lifeguard and filled an 8×8 inflatable pool. Everyone willing to strip down into their speedos were given free cosmos. But the inevitable happened: The pool burst, spilling water across the bar floor like a million martinis had fallen all at once.” I wished I had been there to witness it.
I asked McGrail if he had anything he wanted to say to all of his patrons over the years. He was emotional, but proudly said, “We have been honored and privileged to serve our family and friends through the years, and we want to thank everyone for their patronage and express our gratitude for their loyal support over the past 20 years.”
We’ll miss you, G-Lounge. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at their bar, having a drink and making final memories before it closes on New Year’s Day.
G-Lounge remains open through the end of the year daily from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Ring in the New Year at G-Lounge for its final opening night on New Year’s Eve.