Friday, May 6, 2011

Chrome Cat

Chrome Cat
Chrome Cat

Location: 226 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, Michigan, USA

Opened: January 9, 2009

Closed: April 30, 2011

Owners Michelle Taylor and Lisa Whitehead had high hopes when they opened the Chrome Cat in 2009. The two have been making plans to open their own spot since the previous summer when their regular hangout, Club 505--a longstanding lesbian bar in downtown Lansing--had closed. So they were looking forward to filling that gap.

As it turned out, the name of their new place was of personal significance:

The word “chrome” in the club’s name is a reference to the motorcycle club Taylor started in 2001, Great Lakes Sisterhood. Whitehead became friends with Taylor when Whitehead and her late partner, Nancy Fitzgerald, became members. Fitzgerald died of ovarian cancer last May, and Whitehead said the money from her life insurance policy allowed the women to get the project off of the ground. The new d├ęcor will have a chrome theme, including a diamond steel plate over the bar. Above the bar will hang a shadowbox in memory of Fitzgerald.

But as we all know now, 2009 was a terrible time to start a new business. In a little over two years it was done. Here's the obituary from Michigan Live:

One of the last bars in Michigan to attract a mostly lesbian crowd is closing its doors on Saturday.

Chrome Cat in Lansing opened in January back when I was working at the Lansing State Journal. I was a copy editor there, but I also moonlighted as the paper's bar reviewer.

At the time of the Chrome Cat's opening, I remember the owner telling me that they didn't want to be identified as just another lesbian bar -- though they were absorbing the clientele of Club 505, a lesbian bar that had closed a year before and turned into a sports bar.

Now, the Chrome Cat is gone. "If you haven't heard, CC will be closing for good Sat April 30th @ 12am. Come down & say goodbye to your Old Town Cats...1/2 off..." reads a tweet.

And, on its Facebook page: "This is a very difficult time for all the staff of CC, please stop by in the last few days & tell them how much you appreciate them & their efforts....I know they can really use some positive words about now....and thank you to all who have supported us...we couldn't have done it without you!"

There's plenty of gay-friendly bars and clubs across the mitten, but few that catered to a mostly lesbian crowd. Located in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood (a stone's throw from the Capitol), it also served as a gathering place for several LBGT events and organizations across Mid-Michigan.

Bar manager Melissa Kim told Lansing's City Pulse that in recent times, the Chrome Cat ran into financial issues. It had a fundraiser to pay back rent, but the bar decided not to renew its liquor license due to owing back taxes.

City Pulse, April 28: "We're not gonna renew our liquor license, which expires Saturday at midnight," Kim said. "Obviously, we've had financial issues, and we had to take a look at our possibilities versus what we had to pay out. So we decided it would be best to close on our own." Kim said tax issues were at the center of the closing. "You can't fight the government," she said. "They were going to negotiate, but the whole 'support your local artists' idea wasn't really working out for us. It's sad, but we had a great run."

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