LA Gay Bar West Hollywood Abbey has a hidden bakery inside
When you talk about West Hollywood nightlife the conversation starts or ends with The abbey. The iconic club, restaurant and bar turned 30 this weekend, with festivities taking place on Robertson, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard, with cocktails and a lesser-known menu item that kicked off the whole crowd. the influential company: the dessert.
There is a huge bakery tucked away inside the abbey, with a tempting display of red velvet cakes, cheesecakes, apple pies and ding dongs ready for club hoppers, brunchers, hobbyists. cocktails or the perpetual happy hour aficionado. But the massive 12,500-square-foot Abbey Experience – with, in its modern iteration, four full-service bars, DJ booths, dining rooms, and go-go dancer podiums – had humble beginnings. Owner David Cooley opened the original Abbey in 1991, in the now empty former space of Bossa Nova. Cooley, even then, envisioned a queer-positive space with desserts.
“I borrowed money, used my credit cards. I asked a friend if he wanted to invest. He asked me how I was going to make money selling coffee and some cakes on Robertson, ”Cooley says. “He said I had to be in Santa Monica [Boulevard]. When people say you can’t do it, it’s even more of a challenge. [And] from day one i had a queue at the door.
After spending three years at the old Bossa Nova location, Cooley moved directly across the street and into a 1,500 square foot space that was once a pottery store. Its owner was supportive and allowed Cooley to expand. He continued to move outward, acquiring Here Lounge and transforming The Abbey into the cultural idol of Los Angeles that it is now. Cooley has enlarged the property five times with distinct vibes in every corner, from the striking chapel hall to the laid-back escape of the dance floor called Within, or dining in the garden they lovingly call Abbey Road.
Throughout the changes – which included the sale and takeover of his business from SBE in 2007 – the Abbey’s dessert production remains constant. And some of its 275 employees have worked there for decades. Turnover is low, including longtime pastry chef Alan Zumel, whose creations are some of the restaurant’s bestsellers – alongside the insanely strong martinis.
Zumel joined The Abbey 10 years ago and produces the aforementioned desserts with apple pies, berry chips, unicorn bars with fruity pebbles, butterscotch pudding and tiramisu. “I’m making a nasty bread pudding,” Zumel says. All desserts are available from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. So if anyone desires a slice of Zumel’s seasonal lime pie on the dance floor, that’s quite a possibility. “Retro seems to resonate with people like apple pies, lime pie or anything to do with childhood memories,” he says.
Cooley leaves creativity to Zumel throughout the year, apparent in the Halloween cookies that line the murder scenes with sufficient red food coloring and sweet, twisted human body parts formed from pastry dough. Zumel’s lime, meanwhile, is stacked with two inches of meringue and a thick graham cracker crust. Her work might even include wedding cakes or baking candy for causes and fundraisers championed by Cooley, including the Abbey Christmas promenade in September where the space is decorated with fake snow and decorations. for the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.
Cooley has opened and closed four times since March 2020, a difficult feat as most bars and clubs were unable to open during COVID-19. He hopes to be there for another 30 years. This section of West Hollywood has changed dramatically over the years. Bossa Nova, the longtime Brazilian eve, is gone, as is Hamburger Haven which closed at the end of 2019. The Abbey is now sandwiched between the restaurants of reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump, PUMP and Sur, while Lance Bass plans to open America’s largest gay bar inside Rage. , which closed in 2020 following a dispute with an owner. Many queer spaces in Los Angeles have been gone since March 2020. Cooley wants to bring back the bar stools as soon as possible, as her older regulars prefer to sit at the bar for a meal and a drink. He says many of these clients suffered from isolation when they took shelter in place. LA County has banned bar stools until coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
If you are sitting in the front patio of the Abbey, a glance across the street is to see the future of West Hollywood. When construction begins on Robertson Lane, a future 241-room hotel and retail space that includes four restaurants and a nightclub, the entire block will experience a dramatic – and permanent – change. At present, this development is being delayed, so the buildings and lots adjacent to the abbey are either bordered or bulldozed. Directly south of the abbey is the West Hollywood Park construction site, which opens in the fall. Until then, there is always pie at the abbey.