BS West, the longtime Old Town Scottsdale LGBTQ+ watering hole, is closing for good on Sunday.
"With a heart full of gratitude, after 35 years of business, BS West has made the bittersweet decision to close our doors," the bar announced in a social media post on Tuesday. "Although we have enjoyed serving the LGBTQ+ and allied community for over three decades, the time has come for this chapter to close. We hope that you have enjoyed your time here as much as we have enjoyed serving you.
"As we approach the end of an era, we wish to extend our deepest appreciation and best wishes to those who made our journey meaningful. Thank you so much to the family of staff, show casts, partners and loyal patrons who helped us create a safe space and loving atmosphere over the years. We know we could not have done it without your commitment and support. You are the soul, heartbeat and legacy of BS West."
Robb Salvato, who has co-owned the bar with Mike Fornelli since 2008, says the decision was financial.
"To be honest, it’s just the expenses. We’ve been slowly trying to recover since COVID, and both the lease and the insurance in Scottsdale for liquor, it’s skyrocketed and we’re not able to get ahead of it," he says.
Local drag performer Barbra Seville says BS West has served a critical role since it opened in 1988.
"I'm so sad to see the closure of an iconic part of Scottsdale and the LGBTQ scene," Seville says. "BS West was an important part of a lot of people's lives. Pre-internet, pre-apps, pre-marriage equality, these spots were a place to keep up with each other, find companionship and rally the community."
There were more than 100 comments on the farewell post on the bar's Facebook page lamenting the loss of the LGBTQ+ gathering place. Phoenix New Time named BS West among the best bars in the Valley in 2023.
"As a patron most of those years, it’s sad to see this closing chapter. Many great memories and lifelong friendships made. Farewell BS, you will be missed," wrote one person. Another posted, "Many fond memories have been had here over the years. I remember this was the first bar I went to after coming out. Sorry to hear of this closure and wishing everyone the best."
Salvato calls the closure "traumatic."
"It’s been pretty traumatic for everybody. We’ve had entertainers for the last three decades find their niche in this community and BS West launched them. ... So many people have had their first gay bar experience at that bar that was there since the '80s," he says.
BS West will say farewell with a party on Sunday night that will undoubtedly be an emotional event.
"Hopefully this week, we’ll all come together and remember it well and close this chapter in our LGBTQ community," Salvato says.