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Spin Nightclub was the 'luckiest accident for owner Gassman
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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When Dave Gassman purchased the multi-level, four-apartment building on the northwest corner of Halsted and Belmont streets in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood in 1998, it included a street-level gay bar and Gassman was told he could do whatever he wanted with it.

Rumors sprang up that the bar would be closed and rented out, perhaps for a Boston Market restaurant.

Gassman, after all, is straight and doesn't drink alcohol. He's just a real estate maven who purchased his first apartment building in 1982.

Gassman then asked a gay cousin of his about the gay bar, which then had been called Spin Nightclub for about two years, and was the sight for numerous gay bars in the years before that including, most recently, Foxy's. His cousin simply said, "It'd be a shame to lose it from the community. So I'll come help you run it."

So started a new Boystown legacy.

Gassman and his brother, plus two cousins of his, ran Spin. Dave was traditionally the Wednesday night in-bar manager, and also present for special events, among other days.

That lasted for less than two years, before everyone but Dave bolted.

Dave Gassman quickly became Spin, and Spin certainly was Dave Gassman.

Gassman regularly wore Spin shirts—and still does.

He was the bar's owner for just under 16 years, closing on the sale of the bar—and the bar itself—in late May, literally weeks before what would have been its June 8 anniversary.

"This is the luckiest accident I ever had," he said. "I didn't buy the building thinking I was going to keep a gay bar; I was just buying the building. As it turns out, I now have some very near, dear [gay] friends.

"Never, in a million years, could I have guessed what buying this [building] would have turned into."

Gassman wanted out of Spin for professional reasons—not financial. He remains very busy in his real estate business, is getting more involved with development and major renovation projects. So he just doesn't have the needed time to focus on Spin. Before its closing, Gassman said Spin "was doing fine" financially.

"It definitely needed more attention [and] could have used a facelift," he said. "It was not a financial issue; it was more a time and desire issue."

The former Spin spanned 9,000 square-feet, plus the outdoor beer garden with its additional 2,000 square-feet. Spin had about 30 employees.

"I have good memories," plus countless pictures and trophies, Gassman said. "It's not easy to say goodbye. I kind of look at it as a continuation; I'm still here, still working nearby; I'm just not the bar owner."

Gassman's fond, and funny, memories started early in his run with Spin. At, for instance, the first North Halsted Market Days after taking over the club—when his dad, Bob, who also is straight and was helping serve beer. Bob was propositioned, offered oral sex for beer. "My dad laughed," Gassman said.

Gassman has ridden on the Spin float in the Chicago Pride Parade—in a working role—filling water for the famed shower of scantily-clad revelers, for instance.

Gassman said he had been thinking about selling Spin for the previous year or two. "It just kind of got to be overwhelming," he said. "When I first bought [Spin], I didn't realize how big of a community center a bar was [within the gay community], but now it's changing."

Gassman has provided hundreds of jobs for the gay community over the years, and certainly been generous—to the tune of more than $100,000—supporting gay causes and sporting teams, such as those competing in the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) and also the Chicago Gay Hockey Association (CGHA), among others.

"The [gay] community means a lot to me," he said. "I'm proud of the fact that a straight guy who doesn't drink has been, for the past 15-plus years, a [prominent] part of the gay community—and probably knows more about drag queens than he should.

"I think it's important for people who are successful to give back to the community."

Now 51, and living in nearby Ravenswood, Gassman also has played on numerous CMSA teams in many sports over the years. Now, though, it's just golf, though not in the CMSA league.

He was born at Weiss Hospital on Chicago's north side and lived in the northern suburbs until he was 10, before his family moved to Colorado for seven years. After graduating from high school, Gassman returned to the area to attend Northwestern University.

And while a college student in 1982, he purchased his first building—a 16-room boarding house at 1526 W. Jackson, on Chicago's Near West side.

"I always knew I'd be involved in real estate," ever since 1982, said Gassman, who now owns a major portion of the units on the east side of the 3800 block of Broadway in Lakeview, between Grace and Sheridan—but no other gay business.

Gassman has been a fan and financial supporter since day one of the Chicago Force—he even attends practices regularly and rarely misses a home game, always watching from the team's sideline.

Gassman connected with the Force through team owner Linda Bache, as he sponsored a flag football team she played on years ago.

"To me, it means more than just writing a check. If I'm going to support someone or something, I should be there," he said when asked why he even attends Force practices, not just games. "It's not about the dollars; it's about the commitment."

And Gassman certainly has been a longtime, loyal supporter of the gay community.

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