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Novak's quick reopening is no 'publicity stunt'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 9, 2013 - Only two days after it closed its doors on PrideFest Sunday, Novak’s bar reopened under the same name but a different owner.

The establishment in The Grove threw a farewell party Sunday, June 30, after nearly 17 years as a watering hole and gathering place for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people and their friends.

Now back in business since July 3 at 4121 Manchester Ave., Novak’s is operating under owner Steven Preston Kootman, of Preston’s Salon in Clayton. Kootman takes over the bar’s operations and the rights to its name following the retirement of founder Nancy Novak. Kootman will continue to rent the building, as Novak did.

The 48-hour turn-around between "open" and "closed" isn’t what it may seem, according to Novak’s public relations spokesperson Grayling Holmes.

“The general public thinks this was some sort of publicity stunt, but it’s not,” Holmes says.

Here’s what happened, according to Holmes: Another potential buyer was set to take over as the shutdown was announced, but that deal wasn’t final. That prospective owner wanted to close the bar for remodeling for two months. But Kootman’s business plan was to keep the doors open during any renovations. His offer won out during the period between the closing and the reopening.

Remodeling will likely not be extensive. It will include new bathrooms and possibly floor refinishing. There is discussion about changing the official name to Novak’s STL.

But many things will stay the same. Manager Kelly Washam -- who’s been with Novak’s since it moved to its current location across the street from the old in 2004 -- will keep her post. Most of the bartenders and other staff will also remain. Nancy Novak will take on the role of “consultant emeritus.”

“We can glean from her, the knowledge of what it took to make this club what it is,” Holmes said. “It will remain the same Novak’s.”

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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