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When Gale bought X-it six years ago, the area was a "ghost town," he says. "Then as clubs opened, they brought business. But Hollywood has an ethnically diverse population a large black population. The black clientele changed the color of downtown Hollywood." With developers spending millions on redevelopment, Gale charges, city leaders cast a wary eye on black partiers. "The city is afraid to lose those multimillions of dollars."
"I was the largest dance club," he continues. "I had a large black clientele. One of the only clubs that was really, truly affected was mine." The law does allow some businesses to have DJs and serve alcohol but only if they serve meals and have tables and chairs covering 75 percent of the floor. In which case, says Gale, "You can't have a dance floor. You can't have a club atmosphere. So I chose to give up the 4 a.m. license."
"A DJ has nothing to do with the problems in the city," Gale says. "Everyone knows they wanted to whiten up downtown Hollywood."
It's a shame, he says. "We had a wonderful Haitian party here on Sundays. The people looked like they were going to church, dressed nice. They had their party, it was peaceful, and they left. And I had hip-hop on Wednesday nights."
After Mara's law took effect, however, business tanked. "Revenue-wise, it's like nonexistent," Gale says. "If we do $2,000 a week, we're doing well. When we could do six to seven times that in one night before. Let's put it this way: Between the mortgage, electric, gas, water, what we pay for the parking that we have, and basic staff, I need approximately a minimum of $25,000 a month. I'm pulling the dollars every month out of my pocket."
Gale says he's fortunate he gets other income from rental properties he owns. But he's had to cut a lot of jobs. "Now, I have two permanent people and a couple of part-time people. Before, I had a total of maybe 35, 40 different staff."
Before the law took effect, Gale already had a working relationship with Waas and his Euphoria Project, which held regular raves at the club. But once Gale lost his most profitable nights, he let Waas take over more nights and started allowing all-ages, no-alcohol raves.
"I've worked with hundreds of people," he says, "and Mitch is probably the most honest person I've ever dealt with. Mitch must have an incredible love for the scene. He's like an angel to the scene. He knows all these people, looks after them all. If someone's hungry, he'll say, 'I don't have much, but come to my house and I'll share what I've got. '"
He confirms that Waas is personally making almost nothing in the arrangement that Waas frequently ends up paying more in expenses than he takes in.
But what about the use of the word rave? Doesn't it invite trouble with the law? "We have internal security and our own undercover guys. There's no trafficking in the club," Gale says. Still, he allows that "if someone consumes something outside and comes inside, there's nothing I can do about it." As a deterrent, he charges patrons a $5 reentry fee.
He claims that the police have sent undercover officers into the club on multiple occasions and that he hires off-duty officers to work security details. The police, he says, know that "if you ask where you can get drugs, we'll escort you to the door and show you where you can get them somewhere out there."
Has he seen the kids sucking on pacifiers? Are they sucking on them to relieve the teeth-clenching side effect that comes with ecstasy use?
Alboniga chimes in: "I don't know if they do it for any reason other than to look stupid. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life."
Gale is more charitable. "It's a little different but people laugh at my fashion. People say, have you seen the guy in the white V-neck shirt and shorts?
"The kids have their baggies and their little colorful beads. It's a different blend everyone comes in here, kids in hip-hop clothes, in baggies, in techno style, with their colors on. The bracelets! The girls come over and put a little bracelet on me."
But Gale sighs and looks a tad bewildered. "I never pictured myself running a huge nighttime daycare," he says. "This is probably the largest babysitting institution in the city."
Now entering Gale's institution: Sean Whisnant, 21, wearing a curious ensemble a black fedora hat on which someone has used fluorescent orange puff paint to draw stars and write "Projection into an alternate reality." Whisnant's shirt is a mustard color, with a print of marijuana leaves. And his wrist is wrapped in bracelets made of cheap, multicolored plastic beads.
"All these bracelets were given to me," he says, sounding less like a hipster than someone who's just come from a science fair. "They're called candy." One spells out "PLUR."
"It stands for "Peace, Love, Unity, Respect," he explains the raver motto. A lot of partiers are wearing them. If one feels a connection with another, they'll pass a bracelet, or sometimes a necklace, along.