One of West Hollywood's most infamous motels, the San Vicente Inn, is ditching some of the features that have endeared it to many LGBT travelers, namely its clothing-optional policy.
Jeff Klein is spending $30 million to upgrade the 29-room motel and turn it into something more upscale — and not strictly gay. A drug dealer just got the boot, the shabby decor is being traded for new linens, mattresses, and deck chairs, the staff now wear uniforms, and Klein is no longer advertising the Inn as "gay-friendly." The biggest change, besides closing the jacuzzi, was requiring people not walk around bottom-less anymore. Klein, who is gay, wants to encourage a broader clientele — the Inn just received a rare visitor, a baby.
“At first, I just planned to keep it running how it was, which was basically a gay bathhouse, and then close for the refurbishment,” Klein told The New York Times. “But then there was a near overdose. Seriously! It was like land of the missing teeth in here. I couldn’t bear it."
Long-time locals are grousing at the changes, seeing as another gentrifying dagger in WeHo's heart. The LGBT enclave, surrounded by Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, has long been a place to party and hook-up, but more and more it's a place for young families, straight singles, and the omnipresent Russian population. The city's last lesbian bar was leveled for a forthcoming mixed-use project and a scandal just broke out when officials removed a rainbow flag from City Hall (later replaced with a flag that featured the city logo in rainbow colors). The San Vicente Inn was the last motel in WeHo with a clothing-optional policy.
Initially, Klein was going to close the Inn while he went through the permitting process to entirely gut the place. But he decided to keep it open while he got the permits, gradually introducing upgrades like the new bedding, before the Inn shuts down for major work. In this interim phase, Klein doubled the rates (about $70 a night to $140), which is helping cover renovation expenses, as are higher occupancy rates.
While West Hollywood's city manager applauds the changes at the San Vicente Inn and its ability to lure new visitors to the city, online commenters say they'll miss that old smell of bleach and weed.
“Gay people have spent forever fighting to be included in society, and now I’m being persecuted for including straight people?” Klein told the Times. “It’s so beyond creepy.”