It’s been a hard and difficult time seeing many lives lost during this pandemic. And for our community, it is also hard to see the loss of some of our local businesses; their absences are very noticeable. In a community where our bars, restaurants and entertainment venues sometimes serve as our heart and soul, it is in these places where we feel welcome when we first take our journey into the LGBTQ+ world to be out and proud. It can also be where we meet and make friends, partners, lovers, and life-changing connections; it is also there where the community supports each other with fundraising and other events. To see one of our beloved local establishments close its doors without the opportunity to take a bow and say goodbye to staff and patrons actually brings tears to my eyes.
I’m no spring chicken anymore, having just turned 40 right before COVID-19 hit us all and sequestered us at home. I sit here reminiscing on what Martinis brought to my life. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that business may not return to how it used to be after we find a way to go back to a more normal life with eventual protection from this virus.
So, what was Martinis Above Fourth to me? I have great memories of this place, I’ve been lucky to know owners James Simpson and Doru Tigui since I was a young 20-something, having had the pleasure to make their acquaintances during fun dinners at another lost community jewel, Top of the Park, with the late owners of Buzz Magazine, David and Dan (who gave me my opportunity in the LGBTQ+ publishing world). When James and Doru took ownership of Martinis, it became a stop for a cocktail and dinner when I started to feel fancy and more grown up; dinner dates and late-night chats with martinis at hand; fun bingo brunches that had become a tradition for so many; it was a community jewel but also it was a music venue that sometimes brought the most eclectic people together to enjoy a special performance. I mean, there was that one time my partner and I shared a table with two doctors — the wife, a New Yorker who was a hoot, and the husband, who was quiet at first but after many glasses of wine became our new best friend — while we enjoyed the live vocals on the stage. There have been many live concerts with so many talented performers that naming one would be a disservice to the weekly lineups of local talents who made you want to sing along to your favorite song. So many martinis and we all have our favorite; now I really wish I had been more adventurous and tried each one on the listed menu at least once.
I have experienced great office parties with business associates that became traditions at Martinis, like the kickoff to the holiday season with the Ugly Sweater Party in which, not to brag, I came in first place a couple of years in a row. So much money had been raised there in the many-hosted fundraisers to help numerous organizations in our community. The popular yearly wreath auction that had the walls covered with fantastically decorated community wreaths, that in one night found not only homes but also raised money to help out and make a difference. The community would gather there to hear the year’s nominees at the Nicky Awards and you’d get a chance to catch up with local business owners, entertainers and community organizers.
I always felt fancy there, like I needed to get dressed to go there, and no, not because it was mandatory but at least for me, it was. I wanted it to be a special night, like I was going out in New York.
We will never get another White Truffle Martini paired with some Man Candy (Martinis’ popular thick bacon appetizer) but more unfortunate is that the younger members of our community won’t have the pleasure of a first date or first cabaret concert where they will feel all grown up like I did so many years ago.
It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend with more than two decades of memories. I guess all I have to say is: Thank you to all the wonderful staff that made the place special and to James and Doru for keeping the doors open through the ups and downs and the ever-changing face of our community. We cheer all of you and we hope that one day, we can have a place like the one you created for us to enjoy again — not just for food and cocktails, but for a real sense of community.