While tacos may be the main attraction at other West Hollywood establishments on Tuesdays, one Boystown bar is drawing in a crowd that night for a different reason—sports.
“A lot of our regulars are huge sports fans—not necessarily jocks, just really into sports,” said Hunter Haliniak, manager of on Santa Monica Boulevard and Hancock Avenue. “Rather than going to a straight sports bar [to watch a game,] our establishment gives them a gay venue where they can do that.”
In less than two years, Gym Bar has developed into a mainstay of the Boystown strip, filling a niche that was evidently missing in the West Hollywood nightlife scene.
On an average night, Gym Bar is a venue where sports fans can root for their favorite team or watch an episode of SportsCenter, but every Tuesday, the crowd balloons into the hundreds as the West Hollywood Dodgeball League descends upon the bar after its weekly matches.
“Dodgeball packs the place after their league play and they stay pretty much until close. It's a really good place for the players to come and unwind after their match,” said Haliniak. “[It shows] we are also an avenue for local gay sports organizations to meet, have functions, or put their organizations' name out to recruit new players."
Other sports groups may use Gym Bar as a local watering hole, but none seem to draw the same numbers as the dodgeball teams that take over the modestly sized venue to play pool and darts and flip cup every Tuesday.
“[The owners of Gym Bar] work hard to help create a unity between gay sports groups and offer an environment where they can meet and socialize," said West Hollywood Dodgeball League manager Jake Mason. "That's what dodgeball is all about too—uniting people through the sport. The social aspect of dodgeball is just as important as the competitive aspect.”
The first Gym Bar was established in New York and was branded as the city's “first gay sports bar” and has “been the pillar of support—even directly involved with creating and starting some of the gay sports leagues in NYC—which makes them a destination for the gay athletes of New York,” according to Haliniak.
When the brand expanded to West Hollywood, it was welcomed into the crowded nightlife scene.
“Weho was lacking a place where you could go have a beer and watch a game with other gay sports fans,” said Mason. “And, as you've seen since they opened up, there were a lot of them that were waiting for a place like this.”
As for the stereotypes of hotheaded sports fan causing ruckuses during games, Mason said the action at Gym Bar is no different from any other “straight” sports bar.
“True sports fans get pretty passionate and rowdy whenever their team plays. But especially come playoff season, they can get pretty intense with yelling, cheering, booing and even [trash] talking between patrons,” said Haliniak. “But it is all in good fun.”
And at the end of the day, perhaps a sports bar in Boystown is not that different from any of the other venues. “Who doesn't like to watch hot men fight it out on the field or court,” said Haliniak.