Splash, the spacious gay watering hole on West 17th St., opened its doors the evening of September 25, 1991. It came along just as Uncle Charlie's reign as the "It" bar of the 80's was coming to an end. At the time Splash's location was a bit off the beaten path, but leave it to the gays to begin the gentrification of a neighborhood that soon became a mecca for gay men.
I've enjoyed my visits to Splash because its expansive layout affords patrons lots of room to walk around and circulate on its two floors. Its videos are eclectic and entertaining, and if you don't find them of interest there's the stable of buff bartenders to stare at as they strut around in their skimpy, and very flattering, briefs.
Over the years Splash has gone through a number of renovations. When it first opened it had a water/shower motif and was famous for its "Splash Dancers" (right) who performed on a stage designed as a shower with water spraying as they did an erotic dance solo or with a partner. And "Musical Mondays", a tribute to Broadway show tunes, is still as popular as ever.
A number of years ago I used a trip to the bar as a business expense when the ad agency I was working at at the time was pitching the Stoli vodka account. A group of us paid a visit to Splash and conducted face-to-face research, chatting with a few bartenders about their work and the liquor preferences of customers.
Splash has been in business long enough to have served and entertained an entire generation of gay men - and it continues to be a popular destination (no mean feat once Hell's Kitchen emerged as a popular gay neighborhood about 10 years ago). Only a few bars in the West Village have been in business longer, including The Monster (since 1982), Ty's (1972, pictured far right), and the grandaddy of them all - Julius' (1966 - it even has its own Wikipedia page). However, the clientele of these establishments couldn't be more different than Splash's, with a Pines-Cherry Grove comparison an accurate one. One other bar in Chelsea with longevity, g lounge, has a crowd similar to Splash - but its square footage is a fraction of Splash's, giving it a claustrophic feel.