Venture Inn to close next week

The curtain will officially close on Venture Inn Jan. 17.

The longtime Gayborhood watering hole and restaurant is shuttering after more than 40 years as an LGBT establishment, and decades more as a venue friendly to LGBT clientele.

General manager Henry Brinton said owners Bob and Linda Berkowitz recently finalized the sale of 1217 Spruce St., which encompasses Venture Inn. Details on the most recent sale and new owner were not yet publicly available.

The Berkowitzes purchased the property in 2007 for $1.15 million.

Brinton said the couple, who lives part-time in Florida, was looking to liquidate some of their assets as they aged. But, he said, they intended for Venture Inn to remain open after the sale.

“Bob was negotiating with the new owners and that was part of the verbal agreement but halfway through the process, the new group changed their minds and said they were going to close the doors, and it was too late to get out of the deal at that point,” Brinton said. “But Bob and Linda tried their damnedest to keep it open. It broke their hearts that they couldn’t.”

It is unclear what the new owner plans to do with the space occupied by Venture Inn, which stands in a former stable that dates to the 1830s.

The building housed a number of establishments over the years, officially adopting the Venture Inn moniker and title as an LGBT establishment in 1973.

Brinton was an employee for 10 years and GM for the past eight.

“This wasn’t just a building; it was a home, a family, a community,” he said. “I’m happy I was able to have an effect personally on that community because it definitely affected me; I did a lot of growing up and learned a lot here.”

Brinton will move on to Valanni. Every one of the other nine employees has secured employment at Gayborhood establishments, Brinton said.

“Everybody has a job to go to when the doors close. This staff has done everything I’ve ever asked them to do, so I made a point when I found out we were closing to go to every manager, bartender, owner in the neighborhood to make sure everyone has somewhere to go. I couldn’t walk away from this and not try to help.”

Of the recurring events and shows that were held at Venture Inn, Brinton said Robert “Sandy Beach” Hitchen’s “La Cage Aux Beach” has secured a new venue: Tabu, where Hitchen will be working.

It was at the final “La Cage Aux Beach” show last month, Brinton said, that he realized how much Venture Inn has meant to the community.

“People were just crying their eyes out. These were kids I’ve watched grow up. I’ve seen people grow up, break up, come out to their families, have their first dates here,” he said. “But I told them, ‘We’re all family. This is just a building. But we’re going to continue to be family.’”