Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lava Bar

Lava Bar

Location: Howard Johnson Hotel in Kenmore Square, 577 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Opened: January 1999

Closed: June 2001

Back in January 1999, there was the following announcement in the "Grrrl Talk" column of the Boston Phoenix:

The new spot this month is Melinda Ancillo's "Lava Bar," which is housed in the penthouse suite of HoJo's in Kenmore Square. Opening night was set for Sunday, January 17, after One in Ten went to press, so I can't say whether or not she did. In the meantime, die-hard club kids will remember Ancillo from Chaps, where she worked security for a few years. Although "Lava Bar" is Ancillo's gig, it's definitely a collaborative effort. For one, not only will U-Turn's Debi Saltzberg be mixing cocktails behind the bar, but Denise Russo from Upstairs at the Hideaway will help out, too. Plus, Ancillo booked DJ Kris Kono, who spent the summer spinning at Vixen's in P-town and still plays those Connecticut monthly parties, "Club Lucy."

Basically, Ancillo's betting that Kono can keep us happy and relaxed. For now, Kono is holding back on her house faves and instead plans to deliver, in Ancillo's words, "some soft, sexy tunes" to enhance the lounge ambiance of the bar. In other words, expect a very relaxed and quiet atmosphere. The room holds about 300 and comes complete with red-velvet sofas and a redwood bar in an L-shaped room. Check it out every Sunday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Kenmore Square, 575 Comm Ave, Boston. Cover $5. Call (617) 267-7707.

Ah ha! I thought at first. A Boston lesbian bar I didn't know about! Then I found it was just another one of those tedious "lesbian nights." Lesbians, especially in Boston it seems, are seldom able to secure any permanent or even semi-permanent territory anymore. And this one was on a Sunday night, no less.

Here's more from "Grrrl Talk" a month later, in February 1999:

Lava Bar patrons
The Lava Bar took off last month during the long holiday weekend. Keeping up to par with most openings, this HoJo's spot was crowded its very first night. It wasn't as jammed the following week, but there were still plenty of people in attendance. In fact, after 9:30 p.m., when the music switches gears from soft to dance, it sparked a lot of grinding and all-around PDA on the dance floor. Let's just say there was a lot of lust in the air. No wonder Melinda Ancillo, who's promoting the night, deems it "a success."

But then it apparently migrated to Saturday night! (As opposed to, say, Tuesday from 6 PM to 7 PM.) This is big time! So count your blessings, girls! And smile! Lava Bar even won the best "lesbian night" award from the Boston Phoenix that year:

View from the Lava Bar
Boston hasn't had a full-time lesbian bar for a number of years now, so area girls make do with one-night-a-week hangouts like Lava Bar, situated at the top of the Howard Johnson's hotel in Kenmore Square. The accessibility of the location, the relative abundance of parking, and the diversity of the clientele have made Lava Bar the upscale Saturday-night hot spot for girls of all stripes -- from Newbury Street style mavens to the chinos-and-shirts crowd. An elevator from the street level opens into the bar; to the right is a big shiny dance floor that hops with DJ mixes. You'll have to navigate the dancers to find the small seating area, a great place to girl-watch. And if the girls aren't worth watching, the view -- from big windows around the dance floor -- always is.

It also got the same honors from the Boston Phoenix in 2000

The Lava Bar may be in the penthouse of Howard Johnson's, but that's easy to forget on a Saturday night. The club, which goes lesbian on Saturdays, has glass walls on three sides and is filled with sleek galvanized metal and lots of stylish velvet sofas. The atmosphere may be elegant, but the crowd and the music provide the necessary level of funk to keep the night fun. DJs Fran Englehardt and Thom Delahunt play an unusual blend of house, old-school soul, and Latin music. And if the music doesn't do anything for you, there are always theme nights. On one recent Saturday, women shucked their blouses and painted their breasts with liquid-latex paint (soap was not included).

Wow. That's pretty wild! At least they didn't use Magic Markers!

Here's a review from the Global Hangover Guide:

The former Lava Bar at the top of
Howard Johnson's
Lava Bar details:
Large bar, great booths

Since opening its doors this spring, Lava has remained afloat, and, surprisingly, has gained momentum, despite the city's habit of sinking lesbian-targeted clubs within their first year of existence.

Located in Kenmore Square on the top floor of the Howard Johnson's, every Saturday night you can get down with the girls to the house beat - or hang in the overstuffed booths off the floor - or chat with chicks while overlooking the city. A large bar greets all who enter, strategically located directly in front of the elevator, while a smaller bar is located beyond the dance floor toward the back of the club to satisfy the thirst of the more mellow crowd, seeking solitude in the dim lighting of the lounge area.

Lava survived the summer months, minus the co-eds to fill the floor, so this joint may be here to stay. Even though it is attached to HoJos, it has a separate entrance and elevator - so you don't feel like you are going to hotel to dance.

Unique to Lava, the elevator provides a great NYC clubby atmosphere.

As is the case with clubs, there is a $8 cover, but the elevator ride up (and maybe down, too) is worth it.

Still, even a 1999 article in the Boston Globe on the off-campus "gay scene" more or less admitted what every lesbian already knew: that the range of entertainment venues for women was still pretty pathetic.

There isn't much as far as clubs for women. Try the Lava Bar in Kenmore Square on Saturday nights, the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain on Thursday nights, and Ryles, a jazz club in Cambridge where the upstairs is devoted to women, but not jazz, on Sunday nights.

But even the Lava Bar option was gone by June 2001. From the Boston Globe:

Last June, it was all downhill for Lava Bar, then Boston's leading dance club for the lesbian community. After 2 1/2 years of providing a space for women to dance and mingle, the club's promoter, Melinda Ancillo, was told the Kenmore Square hotel that housed Lava Bar was being converted into student housing. Pretty much the only game in town for lesbians on Saturday nights, Lava Bar's sudden departure from the nightlife scene threatened to leave a huge void.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.