The Gayborhood’s Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar is moving, and its owners are officially re-introducing the longtime late-night establishment as a gay bar.
The four owners have purchased the iCandy building, triple the size of Tabu’s current location, at 254 S. 12th St. The new locale will open Sept. 24.
“I am guaranteeing that there will be no question that when you walk into the bar on opening night, you’re in a walking into a gay bar,” said Jeff Sotland, one of the owners.
“When we opened Tabu, we made a conscious decision to not call ourselves a gay bar,” he added.
“We were opening a sports bar in the gay section of town, intending to be as welcoming to absolutely every single person in the community, geographically and demographically, as we could,” he said.
“Times are changing, and we are off that. We are coming out of the closet.”
When Tabu opened eight years ago, Sotland said the owners wanted to appeal to a broader community. At that time, "the ally/straight community did not see gay bars as a place to have a sports experience or grab a beer. Those times have changed. We want to stand up and make it be known that we are focusing on our community and having a safe space."
Sotland said that over the last couple of years, Tabu’s owners were looking at options to expand the business, as it outgrew the building that has housed the sports bar since 2010. The move has been in the works for the last seven months, he added.
Tabu will move from its two-story, 3,500-square-foot space to iCandy’s 12,000 square feet on three levels, including a roof deck. New sound and video systems will be installed in the first-floor sports bar and on the third floor, which will be Tabu’s new performance space. The second floor will feature rotating DJs. Sotland said that eventually Tabu will host quarterly balls and nonprofit and community events.
Stephen Carlino, another owner, bought iCandy’s building from its owner, Darryl DePiano. Both Tabu and iCandy will maintain their liquor licenses through the sale, but it remains unclear what will happen to iCandy.
DePiano became embroiled in controversy after a video went viral two years ago of him using the N-word to describe iCandy’s customers of color. He did not respond to requests for comment about the rumors circulating online that iCandy would be closing its doors due to the backlash from the community.
Last year, the COLOURS Organization, which provides HIV health and wellness services to the black LGBTQ community, provided antidiscrimination and antiracism training for DePiano and his staff. Damon Humes, COLOURS executive director, led the trainings and said that they were a step in the right direction for DePiano in repairing his relationship with the community, specifically the members of color.
“It was an unfortunate misstep on Darryl’s part and his actions deserved consequences, but he made a conscious effort to make amends for that mistake,” Humes said. “I hope that Tabu will follow Darryl’s lead in continuing to do work in anti-oppression and discrimination training.”
Sotland said that he and the other owners are not looking to rehash the negative history, but that he will continue to train his staff on being welcoming to all.
“We’ve reached out to Amber Hikes from the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and Rue Landau from the Commission on Human Relations to train our staff. Before we open, every staff member will go through implicit bias and discrimination training,” Sotland said.
“We’re going to take the history of [iCandy’s] space and move it forward.”