As LGBTQ establishments nationwide vanish at a rapid clip, there was a sigh of relief this past January when Oklahoma City’s infamous Habana Inn was purchased by someone with plans to renovate, rather than tear it down. It was re-branded as Hotel Habana.
Since then, however, there have been troubling signs. As of this writing, all three commercial anchors — the discotheque, the country bar, and the restaurant, are gone. The bars, which have been in the building for over thirty years, have relocated elsewhere in the 39th & Penn gayborhood after lease negotiations fell apart.
The hotel owner will reportedly open up his own revamped businesses in the spaces, but appears to have hard feelings towards the tenants who left. Brandon Pickett, an employee of the country bar Finishline — which still controls the space in the Habana for another week, shared security video of a man he identified as hotel owner Tom Lagatta ripping down the bar’s signs in an apparent fit of rage. ‘Maestro of Memes’ Josh Jordan added music to the footage. Click here to watch.
On his Facebook post of the video, Pickett writes:
Seriously taken aback by the actions of the owner of the Hotel Habana. Tom Laggata destroyed property belonging to Copa/Finishline. Is this how a business owner expects to get respect? This is some really childish mess. Sir you are 70+ years old and should have better sense than this. GUESS YOU FORGOT YOU’RE ON CANDID CAMERA.
Debate rages in the local community about what this all means for the Habana’s prospects. From my perspective, not keeping the long-running businesses in place was a monumental misstep, but I hope that it somehow works out.
I’ll leave you with a passage I wrote about my impressions of the Habana in the 1990s.
There were no dead ends at the Habana, only twists and turns where more excitement might await. Like a brick and mortar Facebook and sex app rolled into one, it’s where the action was. The loitering chickens, the cruisy trolls, the people and cars circling “the shame,” the tailgaters, the queens going back and forth between the packed dance clubs, the guys looking out their windows with doors ajar, the house phone in the lobby where you could dial any room, the eccentric characters like “Sammy Safari,” an animal trainer who brought a leashed tiger to the disco, the fine diners under the gaudy brass chandelier overlooking the shenanigans at the pool through floor to ceiling windows…
Even without the clubs in the building, you can still park once and walk to a restaurant and half a dozen fun bars. If you haven’t experienced the Habana and the surrounding gayborhood, it’s time to flail on down. We can’t count on our spaces being around forever.