LONG BEACH, Calif. – It is the oldest gay club around, but it won’t be in business for much longer.
Club Ripples co-owner Larry Hebert has been looking after the place for more than four decades.
“It’s exciting. It’s bittersweet. It’s melancholy you know,” said Hebert.
Hebert met John Garcia in 1974. They are partners in business and partners in life. Together they have established a reputation. They own the Ripples bar, the land, and a small attached liquor store.
By the time they had bought out all the original owners in the 1980s they had some lessons to learn.
“It was very hard. I mean everybody in business was pretty much practically against you,” said Garcia.
It wasn’t just about making money. Sometimes it was a matter of staying alive.
“We had a lot of problems with being accepted. Things weren’t so easy. We had bulletproof windows. We’ve had guards with guns. We’ve had to protect ourselves from different people: Aryan nation, crazy people with swords and knives and guns and everything else so it’s been a battle,” said Hebert.
Now you can see through the club’s windows. They used to be blacked out for privacy and safety. It’s just one sign of how things have changed for gay people in Long Beach.
The city is recognized for its acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.
“Now gay people no longer look to Ripples or any other gay bars or businesses as a safe haven because they can go anywhere,” said Garcia.
That makes it a good time to move on. They are selling everything to a chain, Burger and Beer Joint.
As the couple breaks ties with the business, they are thinking it might be a good time to officially tie the knot.