Lance Bass is betting big on nightlife roaring back after the pandemic. The erstwhile NSYNC star, who already co-owns West Hollywood gay bar Rocco’s, is now set to open a new nightclub—and he’s doing it in a storied location.
“This past year really showed so many of us that we don’t just want but in fact need in-person engagement,” Bass tells Los Angeles via email. “We are ready to provide that safe happy place for our community to come together and celebrate their lives every week!”
Last month, Bass inked a lease on 8911 Santa Monica Boulevard, the space occupied for nearly 40 years by gay nightlife staple Rage.
Rage permanently closed last September, largely due to a breakdown in negotiations between Rage owners Robert Maghame and Saeed Sattari and the club’s landlords, Monte Overstreet and John Cole, sources say. The parties were reportedly unable to reach an agreement over back rent that had accrued during the pandemic.
Two other neighboring gay bars renting from Overstreet, Flaming Saddles and Gold Coast, also permanently closed last year. Overstreet declined to be interviewed for this story.
After the first safer-at-home orders were issued in March 2020, Rage never reopened. Ownership decided against operating the space as a restaurant, despite having a kitchen, as well as a front patio that might have accommodated outdoor dining. Rage’s longtime manager, Ron Madril, says opening only for food service would have been a losing proposition.
“We didn’t do it because food for us was 1 percent of our sales,” he explains. “For us to open as only a restaurant, not a nightclub at full capacity, wasn’t feasible for us. We need to make $120,000 a month just to break even. We’re not going to make that on just food.”
Bass’s current bar, Rocco’s, survived the pandemic by opening for outdoor service as Rocco’s Paradise in the back parking lot it shares with fitness facility F45.
“Our landlord was great and allowed the tenants to use the parking lot behind Rocco’s for additional outdoor space,” Bass says. “It worked out well for everyone: F45 has training sessions all day and then we have outdoor drinks and dining at night in Rocco’s Paradise! It has been so great to see all the neighbors really come together to work through this with the support of our landlord.”
While few details about Bass’s new nightclub concept have been released so far, he tells Los Angeles that he is committed to inclusion. For years, critics have raised concerns that the Santa Monica Boulevard scene caters foremost to affluent, white, gay men, and can feel unwelcoming to people of color and other members of the LGBTQ+ community–something Bass says he wants no part of.
“I think it’s very important when you open up a bar or nightclub for the community that you truly represent the entire community,” Bass says. “We plan on bringing in a diverse team that will offer something for everyone in the heart of WeHo!”
Prior to quarantine, Rage hosted West Hollywood’s only weekly parties catering to queer Asian and Black people, and one of just three parties catering to Latinx revelers. Paul Nicholls, the director of promotions for both Rocco’s and the forthcoming nightclub, says he’s reaching out to the promoters who staged those nights.
“Not only are we planning on keeping all that, but we are planning on expanding it,” Nicholls says, phoning in from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where he was producing the gay party weekend Utopia. “We want to create more opportunities for other members of the community that didn’t necessarily have representation there. We want to be an LGBTQ nightspot that represents the diversity of the community.”