LOS ANGELES — Oil Can Harry’s, which closed last year, was designated a Historic-Cultural Landmark by the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday for being one of the oldest gay bars in the San Fernando Valley.
Council approved the designation 14-0, with Councilman Joe Buscaino absent.
Oil Can Harry’s was opened in Studio City in 1968 by Bert Charot. It closed in January 2021 after the property owner sold it to a buyer planning to turn it into a jazz venue, according to oilcanharrysla.com.
“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.
A landmark designation does not fully protect a building from demolition, but the commission may object to the issuance of a demolition permit, delaying demolition for up to 180 days, plus another possible 180-day extension, if it is approved by the municipal council. , to allow time to evaluate conservation alternatives.
The commission must also approve proposed exterior and interior alterations to ensure they meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Rehabilitation Standards, which are the nationally accepted criteria for evaluating alterations to historic properties.