Club Hippo, which has been serving Baltimore’s LGBT communities for the past 43 years, is closing its doors this week. It held its final dance night on Saturday, and its karaoke stage and saloon area will be closed this coming weekend.
The club, located at the intersection of Charles and Eager Street in the Mount Vernon district, announced its closure with a statement back in May which revealed that the club’s owner, Chuck L. Bowers, had made the decision to lease the premises to CVS.
‘After long consideration, Mr. Bowers started negotiations with CVS/pharmacy in 2014 and after several months of constructive negotiations, a lease agreement was finalized in April for a new CVS/pharmacy to open in late 2016,’ said the statement which was posted on the club’s Facebook page.
Club Hippo was opened in 1972 by Kenny Elbert and Don Endbinder. Chuck Bowers became involved in 1976 and took over as sole owner in 1978.
Although news of the club’s closure was met with dismay and criticism by some users of social media, many others sung its praises and did not begrudge that fact that Bowers – now aged 70 – wants to retire and maximise potential earnings from the premises.
Others have paid tribute to the fact that the club has hosted a variety of promotions over the years. It held regular lesbian events, and held repeated fundraisers or HIV/AIDS charities since the emergence of the epidemic in the early 1980s.
The venue’s closure also represents a downward trend in the commercial LGBT scene in many countries since the advent of the internet, and – in more recent years – the rise in popularity of hook-up apps. Rising real estate prices in many cities have also had an impact on many bars and clubs.
Gay travel guide publisher Damron says that there has been a dramatic drop in the number of US LGBT bars and clubs in its database – from 1,605 in 2005 to 1,056: a 34% decrease in just under a decade.
As well as the rise of the internet, this drop has mirrored greater acceptance of gay people, with many LGBT people feeling as comfortable socialising in mainstream venues.
Despite this, last Saturday’s final club event at the Hippo drew a large and nostalgic crowd of all ages, reported the Washington Blade.
DJ Farrell Maddox played tracks such as Rick Astley’s ‘Together Forever’ and Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance’, before paying tribute to Bowers and bringing the disco lights down one last time with the Weather Girls’ ‘It’s Raining Men’.
‘For 37 years this has been my home, it’s been my family,’ said Bowers. ‘Now that the Hippo is closing it has been an extremely emotional time for me because of all the friendships I’ve made here over these many years. I will miss this place.’
A final ‘Drink the Bar Dry’ event takes place on Saturday from 4pm.
H/T: Washington Blade