Longstanding LGBT Club Fran’s Place Is Closing This Month
A city known, in part, for its thriving gay community is losing a legendary gay bar next week. Fran’s Place, Massachusetts’s first LGBT club, closes for good on September 26, and the longtime general manager expects it to be sold by the end of the month.
The spot opened as the Lighthouse Cafe in 1940, which had been in operation elsewhere in Lynn since 1920. In 1975, after the family patriarch passed away, his widow, Fran Collins, renamed it Fran’s Place.
With the largest dance floor in Lynn, it attracted a lively crowd of mainly lesbians in the early years, owner Jay Collins told Item Live. “That crowd dominated the straight crowd and it got bigger and bigger until it was known as a gay bar,” he said.
In 1982, Robert Muise began performing drag at Fran’s Place, going by the name Tish. He became general manager of the club, and 34 years later, he is the longest-serving employee there.
“It really is a home for us. Before gay marriage and equal rights came about, on holidays when you would typically go home to your birth family, many people were not accepted by their families and would come to Fran’s,” Muise recalled.
It wasn’t always easy: The general manager recalled incidents of vandalism, arson, and verbal abuse directed at patrons outside the venue over the years. Collins is proud to have run such a beacon of acceptance through the 1980s and ’90s, he told Item Live. For the past several years, Fran’s Place has fundraised for AIDS research, and also made a donation to the Pulse Nightclub in Orland, Florida, after the deadly attack there that killed 49 people earlier this summer.
Collins did not disclose to buyer, or the amount of the sale. According to Muise, the plan is to turn the upper floors into housing, Item Live reported.
There’s still time to pay your respects to the historic nightclub. Fran’s Place is open nightly for dancing, drinks, pool, and more. On September 24, the club has its final sendoff with food, memories, and performances by Salem activist Duchess Gigi, burlesque hoopdancer Siren of the Circle, and more.