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A Proud History Ending in Park Slope

Longtime Brooklyn gay bar Excelsior says it’s closing

Excelsior Bar, located on Fifth Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets in the South Slope, will close July 31.
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It had a good run. Two, actually!

Park Slope’s preeminent queer hangout will close its doors on July 31 after 20 years in the neighborhood.

Excelsior owners Richard Kennedy and Mark Nayden announced the closure of the gay bar in a June 3 Facebook post, crediting community pride for the watering hole’s longevity — and rising rents for its closure.

“More than ever, rising costs, like rent and taxes, make your neighborhood bars and restaurants struggle every day,” read the post signed by Kennedy and Nayden. “Twenty years of serving this community is something we are proud of, and in this WorldPride Month we plan on celebrating each and every day.”

Excelsior first opened at a Fifth Avenue location in the mid-Slope around the turn of the century, where it served a crowd of mostly gay men for 15 years, before shutting its doors for a few months in the face of rising rents.

At the time of the 2014 closure, Matthew McMorrow, an out gay senior aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, wrote an impassioned op ed lamenting the bar’s 2014 closure. Excelsior’s 15-year run, he wrote, was noteworthy for a gay bar that opened before New York State even had a gay rights law.

“By just about any standard, 15 years is a short amount of time. But to measure history by the life of a local gay bar, it was a pretty remarkable 15 years,” wrote McMorrow. “When Excelsior opened its doors, no state recognized same-sex marriage. But that didn’t stop gay people from falling in love.”

Excelsior did not stay closed long. Partners Kennedy and Nayden brought their neighborhood bar to a larger, two-floor storefront located further south, between 15th and 16th streets on the commercial thoroughfare.

Park Slope’s queer community is still served by lesbian spot Ginger’s Bar and Xstasy Bar and Lounge, both located on Fifth Avenue.

Kennedy and Nayden could not immediately be reached for comment.

Updated 11:06 am, June 4, 2019
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