One of the western suburbs’ few nightspots marketed almost exclusively to gays is expected to close in the coming months.
Nutbush City Limits, a tavern that caters predominantly to gay men, will likely close its doors in late March or early April, according to longtime manager Mike Jimenez. Since 1976 the Nutbush, with its nondescript façade, has sat at the corner of Franklin Street and Harlem Avenue in Forest Park. For decades, the bar has served as a sort of “Cheers” to its customers, Jimenez said, referring to the TV sitcom modeled after a friendly neighborhood bar.
And some of the regulars at the Nutbush predate Jimenez, who started working there 18 years ago.
“It’s just a very comfortable bar,” Jimenez said. “It’s very diverse.”
Rod Nunley is the owner of the property at 7201 Franklin St. where the Nutbush shares space with a liquor store. Nunley bought the site in August 2006 with the sole purpose of making an investment, he said, but is now losing money on the deal. According to Nunley, the property taxes are outpacing the income by roughly $100,000. Being a businessman, Nunley said he’s looking to the tenants to make up that difference.
“As long as he’s willing to pay the property taxes I don’t have a problem with it,” Nunley said.
Nutbush owner Mike Zych is one of the original proprietors of the bar that gets its namesake from an old Tina Turner song. For years, Zych has paid rent to various property owners and then split the property taxes with the neighboring tenant. However, the owner of the liquor store is closing the shop, and that puts the entirety of the tax bill on Zych’s shoulders.
Zych also argues that Nunley overpaid for the property, and that sale price prompted an increase in the taxes.
“He just wants to jack up the rent,” Zych said.
For the time being, Nunley has granted the Nutbush until early spring. Once the bar closes though, Nunley said he really has no idea what might happen to the site. Several prospects, including an unnamed developer, are being considered.
“It kind of depends on how everything plays out,” Nunley said. “Nothing is written in stone.”
Nunley is the owner of Elite Tire and Auto Service, an independent Goodyear dealer located next door to the Nutbush. He took ownership of that business in the early 1980s, according to Nunley, but does not own the property.
The immediate neighborhood surrounding the Nutbush bears little resemblance to the changes that have swept the community in recent years. An awning over the front door has changed colors a few times, and the interior remains a relic of decades’ past.
“It’s stuck in the 70s,” Jimenez, 43, said. “That’s kind of the joke I have with it.”
The linoleum tile floor is well scuffed and overhead, Mardi Gras beads hang from the drop ceiling. The space is small and occupied largely by a kidney-bean shaped bar. Aside from a bright, multi-colored flag representing gay pride, there is little that makes the Nutbush stand out as a homosexual hangout.
And that’s exactly what Jimenez and Zych have strived for.
The Nutbush caters mostly to 30-somethings and has survived on the patronage of its regulars, Jimenez said. It’s not a pick-up bar and it’s not a club, but a place where people come after work to have a drink and share a few stories with friends. On the weekends, theme parties and drink specials draw a larger crowd, but the bread and butter of the Nutbush is the sense of family that’s shared by familiar faces.
“It’s just like your neighborhood bar,” Jimenez said.
Zych said he regrets not purchasing the property, but he never had the money to do so. In the days leading to their last, Zych and Jimenez said they’ll be looking for a new location to set up shop, ideally relocating within Forest Park.