Saying Goodbye to JJ’s Clubhouse
I don’t think St. Louis has ever had a club with the same kind of urban, Gotham vibe as JJ’s Clubhouse. Situated beneath towering overpasses in a gritty (until recently) part of town, it’s surrounded by elevated train tracks, including those of the Metro, which practically runs across the roof, and by abandoned or underutilized (until recently) factories and warehouses. In the early days you kind of felt street smart even knowing where it was, and tough for going inside.
It’s long been a place that exuded masculine energy; a sprawling industrial space that was a favorite of bears, leather guys, and bearded men who skewed older. But its famed dance floor lured the younger crowd from the nearby Grove around midnight.
When news broke that on Thursday they’d close their doors for good, I asked friends to share their thoughts and memories.
Countless tributes came in, so I selected a handful for this blog post. Submissions not used here may be used in a future project. Please feel free to share your own in the thread.
“JJ’s is and will always be my favorite bar/club in the St. Louis area that I personally have always felt welcome. I will miss this place greatly.” – Leland L de Masy
“Met two guys who became the single best threesome of my life. Best blackouts – and so worth it. Countless times I forget my credit cards there. And the bartenders, gracious as ever, would call me the next day. ‘Salam, you forgot your card again.’ My response is generally the same, ‘oh shit, thank you! I’ll be in tonight and I’ll use it again. See then!’ One of the Cliques of St. Louis took residence here for a while, which lead into a love-mostly-hate relationship with certain patrons who made a point to spread gossip, not lies though, all which had kicked off after a single bad date with a notorious bad dater. First gay bar that I can say I actually enjoyed my time, the company, and the strangers. It was amazing to be approached by strangers and be able to approach strangers at JJs, as the rest of the Saint Louis gay scene does not typically follow such an approachable mindset.” -Salam Alhamdy
“Several years ago, we went to a Chris Andoe soiree in St. Louis, and the bar, Rehab, knew we were coming and left us little party favors (kazoos, hats, etc.) on the tables beforehand. Well, a typhoon came through about six p.m. and destroyed most of the fun trinkets and they were ruined, threw in the trash. Well, Shae Porter managed to save one little silver glittery top hat, which he had on his head. It was humid after the tsunami and Shae was sweating profusely. The bar back handed me a clean bar towel and said “Here, wipe your friend’s face off”, which I did, and then proceeded to take said top hat and apply glitter all over his face. We then went to JJ’s, about two in the morning, and the door guy, about my size, wearing a harness, checked our IDs with a flashlight and then put the light in our face to make sure they matched, He looked at Shae’s, spotlighted his face ‘Goddamned, Girl, did you just rim Tinkerbell?’” – Floyd Martin
“I liked JJs cause you could be trash there. Got my dick sucked out on the patio there.” – Rocky McCoy
“When I was a gayby in my early twenties, I realized my hometown area was lacking in much of a gay scene, and the one that existed I didn’t feel connected with. I started going online looking forward places to explore reasonably close by, that’s when I came across gay.com chat rooms for the region. I was quickly swept into the St. Louis chat room where I made a network of friends over a long period of time. Finally, a day came where I was invited by friends I made to come up and visit during a Bear event, “Mr. Heartland Bear.” I fell in love with the magic of it, and that was my first time at Bad Dogs Bar and Grill, and JJ’S CLUBHOUSE. Years went by and I started to meet more people on my visits into St Louis, and brought more and more friends with me over the years, and I always felt welcome, and found friendly company within JJ’S. When I finally did move to St Louis in 2016, I automatically wanted to name JJs as my home bar amongst my group of friends. It seems silly my eyes swell up with tears as I type this but it really is sad it’s closing down. JJs was the place that this gay man who wasn’t size zero pretty twink or drag queen could go and feel accepted with open arms. I want to thank Jeff and Jerry for their 21 years of doing this not just for me, but for thousands if not millions, as well as many other things for our community. I will never in my life forget my first Bear bar, or the friendly company I found therein. To JJs Clubhouse! Woof!” -Chris Dexter
It’s Going to be Weird
While Thursday is the last night, the optimum time to say goodbye has already passed. Tomorrow is when the community at large, even people who didn’t like JJ’s, will flock to the scene (including a guy who days ago celebrated the closure as part of his recent crusade against body positivity) . If you’re wanting one last opportunity to say goodbye to the JJ’s community, the presence of so many who were never part of that community will feel intrusive. I just want to prepare you. It will feel like going to see a loved one in their final moments, and finding a hospital room full of strangers hanging around.
I’m basing this off my observations when Clementine’s closed. Monday was the last day, but Sunday was when the community at large came out. That left Monday to the regulars, who toasted and hugged, laughed and cried. That’s something we’re not going to get, so you’ll have to create it in your own clusters, tuning out everything else.
People keep asking, “where will we go?” From my experience “we” will scatter. 20% will go here, 30% there, and some will stop going out. But there is a market for this kind of bar, and there’s a lot of cheap real estate to be had to make it happen. Just not in the Grove or Midtown. I predict bears will find a new home on South Broadway.
In the meantime I look forward to being part of St. Louis history tomorrow night, as we come together to celebrate this legendary place people will be talking about for decades to come.