News spread quickly when the 33-year-old Abbey Food & Bar in West Hollywood was listed for sale in July. Opened in 1991, the cultural hub is arguably the country’s most well-known gay bar and includes a restaurant, bakery, bar, and nightclub. Eater has confirmed that founder David Cooley is passing ownership to Tristan Schukraft, a businessman who got his start as a technology entrepreneur before shifting to hotels and nightlife. Schukraft owns the Tryst Beachfront Hotel in Puerto Rico and MISTR, a telemedicine provider for HIV-related healthcare needs.
The transaction is expected to be finalized in the coming months when the venue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses are completely transferred, according to a spokesperson. The Abbey’s existing management team will remain intact when Schukraft takes over, including longtime general manager Todd Barnes and assistant general manager Kiki Farahat. The exact amount of the sale has not been disclosed.
Before today’s announcement, conversation swirled about when and how the business would be sold, with locals concerned that the Abbey, if in the wrong hands, could transform West Hollywood into a less queer neighborhood. Nearly 40 percent of West Hollywood’s residents identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The entire block on Robertson near Santa Monica Boulevard is changing fast, with reality star Lisa Vanderpump closing her restaurant Pump this past May, while the massive Robertson Lane development continues across the street. (Robertson Lane will eventually include a hotel, event space, restaurants, and retail.) With Schukraft taking over the iconic establishment, it looks like the neighborhood’s distinctive queer culture will remain mostly unchanged. “I plan to respect and honor the Abbey’s history while bringing new ideas that reflect our evolving LGBTQ+ community and my personal approach to hospitality,” he says. “We’re not just maintaining a legacy business and an international landmark, we’re adding to the future of LGBTQ+ nightlife.”
Cooley opened the Abbey in 1991 as a bakery across the street from its current location; he initially envisioned a queer-positive space with desserts. Three years later, he moved the business into a former pottery shop, acquired the adjacent Here Lounge, and converted the massive 9,540-square-foot space into the Abbey as it is known today.
While the Abbey has been a queer cornerstone and supported numerous LGBTQIA+ causes, it has come under fire in recent years with accusations of staff misgendering trans patrons, as well as allegations of drugging, petty theft, and sexual assault.
As one of Southern California’s premier dining and nightlife hot spots, West Hollywood welcomed some notable openings this year including chef Tuệ Nguyễn’s Đi Đi, Ladyhawk at the La Peer Hotel, and chef Josiah Citrin’s Charcoal on Sunset. The new cannabis consumption lounge PleasureMed was one of only a few queer-owned openings this year.