I don't know what it means to me that the door to El Patio de Lila—the only gay bar in Santurce's La Placita—has been torn out and covered up with concrete blocks. I've never been fond of La Placita, the homogeneity makes me uneasy. So when I saw that the bar no longer had an entrance, I was more bewildered than I was sad. El Patio de Lila was never a space I frequented, but on the odd nights that I did go to La Placita with friends, I found a sense of relief knowing there was one bar where I could go get a drink and not feel like a total outsider among an overwhelming amount of people who are not queer.
There's nothing surprising about LGBTQ spaces closing in San Juan, but I suppose that what really struck me was the fact that—as opposed to other venues that have closed, such as Krash Klub—the doorway had been actively removed and closed off. The presence of that entryway, that threshold that separated a non-heterosexual space from the rest of the street, had been wiped away. I assume that by now the doorway ought to be painted the same color as the rest of the wall, leaving no trace behind of El Patio de Lila's existence.
A closed, former queer space that keeps its doorways and windows—even in a state of emptiness, abandonment, closure, or ruin, if you want to call it that—is still perceptible by those who frequented it as they pass by. These openings on the wall, even if covered by newspapers or wooden boards, offer former visitors opportunities to remember experiences that took place inside the space or even at its threshold, where we sometimes end up lingering when we need a bit of fresh air. The materiality of these openings appeal to the provisional; they elicit a sense of temporary change in use, even if the space never opens up again. That the glass windows and metal doors remain glass windows and metal doors, albeit boarded up and bolted, matters. But closing up these openings changes the very form of the building surface, it alters the facade, and in this process, wipes out the formal and spatial connections between the venue and the street. The fact that these openings are sealed using concrete and cement matters. The materials speak of permanent change; it gives off a clear message of closing a past and moving towards different uses. When I pass by the former Krash Klub—located a few minutes away from the former Patio de Lila—I can't help but feel something resembling comfort in knowing that the space is still there and that nothing ever replaced it. Nothing—no one—could ever replace us.
El Patio de Lila's last Facebook page post was on August 15, 2019:
WE ARE COMING BACK!
NEW LOCATIONS...YES YOU READ RIGHT
I was told by a guy that I talked to on the internet, and that oddly enough I had seen one time prior to that when I went to that very bar, that El Patio de Lila closed because the building's owner didn't want to renew the lease for bar. This is hearsay, and it doesn't really provide any insight as to the reasons why the bar closed, why the entrance has been sealed off from the rest of the street, or why the building's owner no longer wanted to do business with the bar's owner. But one thing that I've been largely concerned about in the last months has been with the lack of LGBTQ-owned spaces in the city, where we're left at the mercy of landlords who may or may not want to do business with us. And who, furthermore, have the legal right to close up, seal off, or tear down the few spaces we have in the city, and with this, leaving us no other choice but to go out and search for "NEW LOCATIONS".