Committee Advances Oil Can Harry Designation as a Historic-Cultural Monument

The Los Angeles City Council’s Land Use Planning and Management Committee on Tuesday put forward a proposal to designate Oil Can Harry’s, which closed last year, as a historic-cultural landmark to be the one of the oldest gay bars in the San Fernando Valley.

Oil Can Harry’s was opened in Studio City in 1968 by Bert Charot. It closed in January 2021 after the property owner sold the property to a buyer planning to turn it into a jazz venue, according to the Oil Can Harry website.

“The creation of Oil Can Harry’s occurred against the backdrop of heightened group resistance to homophobia within the gay civil rights movement in Los Angeles,” said city planning assistant Mickie Torres- Gil at the Cultural Heritage Commission on October 7.

“Despite initial protests from its Studio City neighbors, Oil Can Harry’s quickly became a haven for the gay community. … It used a spy hole in the front door and an internal siren system to alert customers of the presence of the police, allowing them to stop the dancing or homosexual activity.

Torres-Gil added that during the AIDS epidemic the club became a “hub of community support and fundraising”, and Charot and his friend Bob Tomasino, who later ran Oil Can Harry’s, raised funds for the fight against AIDS.

The club has also become a space for the country-Western subculture of the LGBTQ+ community, hosting country-dancing classes two days a week and special Western-themed events, Torres-Gil said.

A Los Angeles Conservancy official called the commission meeting Oct. 7 to support the nomination and thank Councilman Paul Krekorian for bringing it forward.

“It’s a very big place in terms of LGBTQ+ meaning in LA, especially in the San Fernando Valley where there aren’t a lot of places that help tell that story,” the director said. principal of conservation advocacy, Adrian Scott Fine.

The application will then be submitted to the City Council for final approval. The date of the vote has not been set immediately.

A landmark designation protects the property from alteration and demolition, and the commission would have to approve proposed exterior and interior alterations.

According to the planning department, the commission can also object to the issuance of a demolition permit, delaying demolition for up to 180 days, plus another possible 180-day extension, if approved by council. council, to allow time to assess conservation alternatives.

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