That time iconic WeHo gay bar The Abbey tried to score with a raunchy reality show of its own

That time iconic WeHo gay bar The Abbey tried to score with a raunchy reality show of its own

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Image Credit: ‘What Happens At The Abbey,’ E!

Earlier this week, it was announced that iconic West Hollywood gay bar The Abbey was for sale, leaving the future of the historic hot spot up in the air.

The Abbey Food & Bar has serving the community since it first opened its doors in 1991, quickly becoming a tentpole of the Los Angeles gayborhood. And while we’re not too worried about its next chapter—seems likely another buyer will soon snatch the hot property up and keep the party going—the news reminded us of another time The Abbey was going through some big changes…

Back in 2015, original founder Dave Cooley bought his bar back from entertainment company SBE Group (he sold a majority stake to them in ’06) with some ambitious plans. The following year, he purchased the building next door, turning it into a conjoined cocktail-focused nightclub called The Chapel, expanding The Abbey’s footprint.

That shift provided the backdrop for a short-lived reality series on E! in 2017 called What Happens At The Abbey, a clear riff on the Vanderpump Rules formula. Of course, like Bravo’s Real Housewives spin-off, The Abbey’s show was much less about business machinations than it was the messy, messy sex and love lives of the bar and restaurant staff.

(Notably, Lisa Vanderpump’s Pump Restaurant—a next-door neighbor to The Abbey in WeHo—shuttered earlier this month.)

By focusing on one of the most famous gay bars in the world, you might think What Happens At The Abbey would be, well…. pretty gay! But you wouldn’t necessarily know if from watching the series trailer, which never even makes mention of the fact that the venue largely caters to LGBTQ+ clientele.

See for yourself:

It actually devotes an awful lot of time to the straight relationships among The Abbey’s staffers, which is fine—we love our allies and always tip our bartenders—if a little unexpected, given the setting.

There is, however, at least one lesbian employee, Elizabeth, and she gets a nice spotlight, though she appears to get caught up in a crush on her co-worker… her straight co-worker.

Plus, we also get to meet restaurant host Lawrence, a gay man who, outside of work drama, is planning on starting a family with the help of his best friend Brandi. How often do we get to see that sort of storyline play out for LGBTQ+ folks on television?

And bar founder Dave Cooley himself can be spotted, breaking the news to his staff that he purchased the nightclub next door—what we now know as The Chapel—filling the Lisa Vanderpump role as the no-nonsense boss, saying “Bye, Felicia!” to anyone not willing to be a team player.

Even if the cast wasn’t quite as queer as we would’ve hoped, it’s pretty obvious What Happens At The Abbey knew who would be tuning in, finding plenty of opportunities for its hot, ripped staffers to take their shirts off. And who can complain about that?

Image Credit: ‘What Happens At The Abbey,’ E!

While we did some scrounging around the internet, it proved difficult to find any official reviews of the series from back in 2017. Though we have to imagine it wasn’t all that beloved if E! neglected to renew it for a second season, cancelling it days before the finale originally aired.

So, sure, What Happens At The Abbey may not scratch the itch of anyone looking for a more LGBTQ+ friendly version of Vanderpump Rules. But, with the bar currently on the hunt for new ownership, the series remains a fascinating time when the infamous gay bar was bigger than ever.

And, if nothing else, it at least introduced us to a bunch of gorgeous guys to ogle, many of whom are still super active on social media with hundreds of thousands of followers. Let’s check in with some of them, shall we?

The entire season of What Happens At The Abbey is available for digital purchase via Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, Google Play, and Vudu.


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