No Parking Departs, Washington Heights Loses Unique Venue

Birthday boy Matt Curiano said there was “nowhere on earth” he’d rather be when he turned 25. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Birthday boy Matt Curiano said there was “nowhere on earth” he’d rather be when he turned 25. | MICHAEL LUONGO

BY MICHAEL LUONGO | Named for its location inside of a parking garage, the gay and lesbian bar No Parking opened in 2006 in Washington Heights at a time when the neighborhood, beginning to gentrify, remained largely Dominican. Location was everything, the setting giving it a decidedly Latin flavor, sprinkled with gays and lesbians of a variety of other ethnicities who were then moving into the area. Other patrons curiously ventured in from other parts of the city or from just over the Hudson River, crossing in from New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge, the exit ramps of which were just a block away.

Decidedly different from venues further downtown — including in its mix of gay men and lesbians gathering together — No Parking closed its doors with a packed blowout party on April 13, Palm Sunday.

Expect the diverse gay, lesbian crowd to head to Castro — in Inwood, not San Francisco

Michael Hodge, the treasurer of Harlem Pride, was among those at the closing event.

“I have always been here from the beginning. Manny was always very supportive of Harlem Pride,” Hodge said, referring to Manny Fierro, the bar’s manager. With his day job nearby at Columbia-Presbyterian, he added, he was “here often. Now there is nowhere to go after this place closes.”

Fierro said he started working at No Parking in 2007. Helping his bartenders serve drinks while the high-tops of go-go boys shuffled across the surface of the bar, he said he will most miss “the positive attitude of all the workers. We always worked like a family together. Our customers added to that family feeling.”

The go-go boys were smoking on No Parking’s farewell night. | MICHAEL LUONGO

The go-go boys were smoking on No Parking’s farewell night. | MICHAEL LUONGO

Fierro then looked up at the sweaty parade of dancers before him, at least eight go-go boys and one go-go girl, a fantasy in more ways than one. With his fingers in quotes, he added, “Also, looking at everything, our DL dancers. Dancers that were supposed to be straight guys. That was really celebrated here. That was why people would come here.”

The dancers were highlighted at a weekly party called Cockfight. That event has already moved further uptown, to an Inwood bar called Castro, in the former Le Boy space on Dyckman Street. Fierro and much of the No Parking staff will also be working there.

“We are taking the party with us,” he said. “When we move to the Castro, we won’t have the same setup, the bar in the middle, but we will have all the good times.”

Some patrons regretted not getting to know the bar better before it closed, like Alberto, who lives in East Harlem and came for the first time on the last night.

“I always wanted to come, but as soon as they told me it was closing, I had to come,” Alberto said, adding, “We need more places like this uptown because it is a truly diverse place. There’s nothing like this downtown.”

He was with his friend Brandon, who lives in Brooklyn. Only there for the second time, Brandon said, “I will miss the music and the vibe.”

No Parking’s trio of DJs –– MK, Nesto, and Matt GoodBar –– were all on hand for closing night. | MICHAEL LUONGO

No Parking’s trio of DJs –– MK, Nesto, and Matt GoodBar –– were all on hand for closing night. | MICHAEL LUONGO

A trio of DJs was serving that last night — DJ MK, DJ Nesto, and DJ Matt Goodbar.

Scanning the crowd from the DJ pulpit, tucked into a dark corner of the bar, Goodbar said, “This is a happy-sad moment for me. Sunday is my night.”

The last DJ spinning for the evening, he added, “I started here, so closing it down is an honor.”

DJ MK took a forward-minded perspective on the evening, saying, “I’ve been here a year and a half. I am the only female DJ who has played here. I will miss it, but I am happy they are moving on.”

Revving the crowd up from the DJ booth was Kedwin, a bartender who served as the evening’s emcee, ticking off the names of the dancers lined up for the evening. He had been scattering white leis over the DJs along with several of the bar’s customers. He described the evening as “as emotional, that’s for sure,” as he bounced through the crowded space.

Other patrons brought their own festive gear, like Matt Curiano who was wearing a Mardi Gras style crown. A resident of the neighborhood, he said he was turning 25 that evening and had brought a group of friends with him.

“This is my quarter-life crisis and there is nowhere else on earth I would rather be than here,” Curiano said. “I am so sad to see this place go. I will miss meeting all the eccentric people dancing to all the amazing music.”

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