On Wednesday evening, Suzanne Hale, owner of the Roxy, announced via Facebook that the 24-hour downtown diner “will close permanently this Sunday, March 20th,” at 5pm. “We’ve just been losing money since the pandemic … I’m grateful for the years we had … Hope I get a chance to see you between now and Sunday to say goodbye. I’ll miss you. I’m so very sorry.”
The post quickly racked up dozens of comments: stories of love, of the best chicken strips ever (I concur), of how the Roxy was home. An LGBTQIA+ hangout and refuge for decades, the Roxy boarded itself up at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A six-figure remodel, which included new bathrooms, a new awning, and a bright yellow-and-purple paint job, helped the space reopen in November 2020.
Then, a fire from the building above caused damage to the kitchen, forcing another closure and further expenses and repairs. A triumphant reopening in summer 2021 included patio seating extending into downtown's new Pride Plaza, live performances, Drag Queen Story Time, and an appearance on Netflix’s Philip Rosenthal-led food series Somebody Feed Phil. However, a permit filed by the city in January for renovations on the building also meant that an eviction was looming: the Roxy would close forever, and soon.
I sat at the counter two Saturdays ago, which was Richard the cook’s last day after years of service. A server and I chatted about possible new spaces where the Roxy could move in the future (maybe one where they could serve alcohol), but given their costly past two years, the opportunity was just not materializing.
I felt an eerie stillness in Pride Plaza this morning. Someone was sweeping outside Scandals and chatting with Suzanne, who is currently sporting a shock of purple hair. I walked around the block with her, tears in her eyes. She told me she’s found it very difficult to hire anyone since the eviction notice from the city: “People don’t want to leave their job to come work at a place for six months.”
Now, with just a few days left, she’s worried about the staff she does have, who are “working hard until the bitter end.” That end, Suzanne says, should feel like “a celebration of life, not a funeral.” Up until 5 o’clock on Sunday, she encourages former regulars to come back, “order food, buy merch, and overtip your servers.”
Sunday is your last chance, and here’s your invitation: come out, everyone, for one last song on the jukebox, one last cheese fry dunked in ranch dressing, one last cherry Italian soda with whipped cream and sprinkles. The world is changing, the places we treasure are disappearing. For one afternoon, fill a space with bodies and love. I will be there, taking pictures, and I’ll see you there, too. Don’t let Suzanne down.