In partnership with SBE, Cooley intends to build Abbeys in cities across the country, and has spent much of the past year scouting locations including San Diego, Phoenix, Miami, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Las Vegas; the plan is for the first new Abbey to open in Chicago within a year.
Bristling at the notion that he’s creating a “chain” of Abbeys -- “This is not T.G.I. Friday’s,” he sniffs -- Cooley points out that the business will be not franchised but wholly owned by his partnership with SBE. Cooley prefers to describe his current project as “taking the Abbey national” or “replicating the soul of the Abbey.” He embarks on this quest even as the gay nightlife industry seems to be in steep decline. During the past year, clubs such as New York’s Roxy and Boston’s Avalon have closed. Bar owners say the Internet is slowly killing their business as cruising continues its migration to the virtual realm; and a new generation, coming out to an increasingly accepting -- or at least (in marketing terms) “gay-friendly” -- world seems neither to need nor want to socialize primarily at gay bars.
Cooley believes the Abbey, as a national brand, could reinvigorate gay nightlife -- and his strategy for doing so appears to involve toning down the avowedly gay part of that experience. But how straight-acting does gay nightlife need to be in order to survive?
I've spent WAY too much time and money (have you seen their drink prices???) at the Abbey over the years. And being from Chicago, it will be interesting to see how they translate this mostly outdoor bar into a Chicago place. I wonder where they're going to put it. In the old "Boys Town", which has become way straight yuppie, or the new up and coming gay neighborhood, Andersonville, my last Chicago address. Whereever they decide to open, they're sure to give Sidetrack a run for it's money!
Of course, I did predict this a couple of years ago with this strip from Feb of '06. Troy #145 "The Gay Demographic"