Rainbow Lounge destroyed by fire

The Rainbow Lounge, a downtown nightclub and focal point, was destroyed by fire early Thursday morning.
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The Rainbow Lounge, a downtown nightclub and focal point, was destroyed by fire early Thursday morning.

Fort Worth

Could this be the end of Fort Worth’s iconic Rainbow Lounge?

By Matthew Martinez


September 06, 2017 07:21 PM


Just days ago on the iconic Fort Worth gay bar’s Facebook page, the talk was still centered around rebuilding, and what Rainbow Lounge 2.0 would look like after fire destroyed the club on June 1.

But now it appears the Rainbow Lounge won’t ever again be the anchor it once was for the Fort Worth gay community.

“Now I’m about 80 percent sure we won’t be coming back,” Rainbow Lounge co-owner Tom McAvoy said. “I’m sick to my stomach about it.”

The owners announced plans on the bar’s Facebook page to move into the red-and-black brick Morrison Surplus Outlet building at 212 Lipscomb St. in July. That was when they thought their part of the renovation costs would be around $125,000.

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Fire destroyed the Rainbow Lounge in the early morning hours of June 1.
Gregg E. Ellman Special to the Star-Telegram

By last week, that figure in that initial quote by property owners Sangalli Real Estate had gone up to more than $300,000, McAvoy said.

“In this latest quote they included things like build-out on bathrooms, building walls within the warehouse space that we thought, according to the first quote, that the landlord would assume responsibility for,” McAvoy said. “We felt lied to.”

Burke Taylor, who manages the property on behalf of Sangalli, confirmed that the quote had “nearly tripled,” but said that both sides were disappointed that Rainbow Lounge would no longer be moving into the 4,300 square feet between future Twilite Lounge and Anvil Pub locations.

For McAvoy, who lives in Florida and runs a business there, it didn’t make sense to spend more weeks looking for a suitable, affordable location after he said he was “gouged.”

The owners of the Rainbow Lounge expected to move into 4,300 square feet in this building at 212 Lipscomb St. after a fire destroyed the building it originally occupied. Turns out, that’s not going to work out.
Robert Cadwallader Fort Worth Star-Telegram

‘Shocked and saddened’

Fort Worth’s LGBTQ community is losing something altogether different than money, community activist Todd Camp told WFAA-TV.

“That bar has existed as a haven for men over many decades,” Camp said. “And a lot of people are feeling very sad at the loss of it because it was a place that meant something to them.”

The Rainbow Lounge had served the LGBTQ community since it opened in 1961, under the name 651. It became a flashpoint for gay rights in Fort Worth on June 28, 2009, when a “bar check” by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents and Fort Worth police became heavy-handed, resulting in injuries to two patrons and several public intoxication arrests.

The building at 651 S. Jennings Ave. burned in the early morning hours of June 1, the first day of what the LGBTQ community celebrates as Pride Month. Brad Sims, the Fort Worth Fire Department’s lead investigator on the ongoing case, said arson has not been ruled out as a cause.

Robert L. Camina, a Dallas filmmaker whose documentary “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” explored the incident’s effect on the gay rights movement in Fort Worth, said he was “shocked and saddened” by the news that Rainbow Lounge would most likely not be coming back.

A downtown nightclub and focal point of the city’s gay community thrust into the national spotlight during a raid by law enforcement in 2009, was destroyed in an early Thursday fire that was apparently accidental, according to the Fort Worth Fire


Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667, @MCTinez817