Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Normandie Room

Normandie Room
Normandie Room

Location: 8737 Santa Monical Boulevard, West Hollywood, California, USA

Opened: October 28, 1993

Closed: July 31, 2009

Here's how the Normandie Room characterized herself, which was basically as a sophisticated, broad-minded kind of gal:

Normandie Room interior
We've been representing all of West Hollywood since 1993. Our motto is "No Homophobes, No Heterophobes, No Assholes". We embrace our motto, and we hope you will too. Although we are often referred to as a Lesbian bar, you will always find a mix of friendly people here to meet, drink, and play with. We pride ourselves on our daily fresh squeezed orange juice and we make our sweet and sour mix from scratch. We're known for our generous drinks as well our eclectic mix of beers.

Whether it be to shoot a game of pool, pick out music on the jukebox, or just a little friendly conversation - The Normandie Room has it all.

Normandie Room certainly got an enthusiastic review from citysearch:

The Scene
The Normandie Room feels more like a New York City artist's loft than a bar. It's small and funky, but gives off an immediately comfortable vibe. Once inside, the eye is immediately drawn to the expansive granite bar that seems to take over the entire room. A few tables line the 20-foot-high windows, offering an ideal spot for people watching inside or checking out the action outside on Santa Monica Boulevard. Late arrivals run the risk of getting stuck behind the pool table in the back with no room to move, much less make a bank shot.

The Draw
Although it's still technically a woman's bar, gay men and gay-friendly people are also frequent Normandie-goers. Expect music that's as varied as the crowd--everything from world beat to '80s New Wave classics keep the loyalists grooving and coming back for more.

Here was the assessment from clubfly:

A variety of lesbians that would make even Tila Tequila think twice, this long time neighborhood girl bar is more brightly lit than most bars, which could be an advantage when going home with someone after that 5th drink. However, that's even if you make it though your 1st - their drinks pack a punch!...

ExperienceLA was more to the point:

The review at OutAdvisor was equally terse, though approving:

A Great Small cubby hole with pretty ladies and nice bartenders, Cruise Bar, Pool Table, Mostly Women.

And then it all came to an end. Between the flatlining economy (and endless road reconstruction along Santa Monica Boulevard), the owner just couldn't find the desire to continue: 

The Normandie Room, one of West Hollywood’s landmark lesbian bars, has become the latest victim of the recession and will close its doors for good “around the end of July, beginning of August,” owner Jason Shokrian said.

Shokrian, who is straight, opened the bar Oct. 28, 1993, and said he initially didn’t plan for The Norm, as it is commonly referred to by regulars, to be a lesbian bar.

“I opened it with the mindset that everyone be treated equally, no preferential treatment due to gender or sexual orientation,” he said. “Due to the fact that women were not treated very well at other establishments at the time (in West Hollywood) they started to gravitate here.”

After finding out that the Normandie Room was founded by a straight, married guy with no particular commitment to womyn's space, I'm not too surprised that Normandie Room was going to be converted to a male space upon closing:

Shokrian said a place called Gym, a boy-oriented sports bar, “being opened by two very nice guys” will take over the location. “At the very least I had to like who was taking over,” he added.

Still, The Norm seemed to be well-loved by the local lesbian community, as this post-mortem tribute certainly attests:

Oh, no.  LA just found itself sans one great bar.  My favorite lezzie bar, my favorite bar, bar none:  after opening in 1993, The Normandie Room had its closing party on Friday night.  According to this article, the owner chalks up the closure to a never-ending street construction project on Santa Monica that decreased foot traffic and the generally depressed/recessed economy.  The sweet bar will be replaced by – natch – a boy’s bar called Gym.  On behalf of lesbians everywhere, I am so, so sad.

To fully appreciate the space that The Norm occupied, one has to realize that most gay bars on the Westside are catered to gay men and that these gay bars usually, sweetly, have lesbian-themed nights only one day out of the week.  Alas, for those of us who practice our lesbianism all seven days of the week, we have our pick of a very, very narrow set of full-time girl bars, all of which are obscene scenes and/or are quickly becoming heterosexualized (i.e., The Abbey).

The Norm didn’t start out as a full time lez bar (it’s motto was “No Homophobes, No Heterophobes, No Assholes”), but over time, we found a home in its deeply red walls, its cozy low-key ambience, and its generous pours.  It was a welcome, laid back neighborhood spot where the point of one’s night was not necessarily to pick up a girl, but to pick up a drink and maybe a game of pool.  There isn’t any other place like it – indeed, some places refuse to reside on this side of classy – and now, I’m at a loss as to where to go.  Oh, Norm.  I’ll miss you.

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