Will Chelsea's New Splash Make Waves?

Every time God closes a gay bar, he opens a sex shop with a gay bar... and a café that serves burgers.

I'm not sure that's pithy enough to fit on the outdoor sign of an LGBT-welcoming church, but as daily meditations go, it's got throw-pillow-cross-stitch potential.

These are tough times for the patch of queer culture in and around Eighth Avenue, from 14th to 23rd Streets. The shuttering of iconic watering holes, the ongoing exodus of twinks to Hell's Kitchen and a lackluster album from Cher have left our dwindling ranks visibly shaken. Even the street-corner cruising has taken on a joyless, mechanical quality of late.

But there's a ray of light that, one hopes, may be more than the simple reflection of dusky sunshine on a tipsy drag queen's glittery cheeks.

Last week, a new business opened up on Eighth Avenue, near 18th Street.


Don't let the butch Mars symbol between the "L" and the "S" throw you off. This sassy little triple threat answers to "Splash" -- and in doing so, it resurrects (in name, at least) one of Chelsea's more notable 2013 casualties, the longtime bar on 17th between Fifth and Sixth that famously had its dancers do their thing while showering. (That was a tremendous blow to water conservation, yes, but nobody seemed to mind.)

So the subtitle on the awning of this new "Splash" indicates that the establishment self-identifies as a "Bar & Lounge," a "Café" and a "Sexy Boutique." We'll just see about that. Claiming it's in your nature to do two or more things is a lot to live up to.

A recent field trip refreshed my supply of poppers -- but sadly, the promise of flushed cheeks and a momentary rush was the only thing I walked away with.

Although everything seems in order with the liquor license (inherited from a former tenant), there's much construction to be done on the upstairs bar and the ground-floor kitchen. And then there's the question as to whether or not they'll be installing video booths -- for which there's ample room and voltage, I'm told.

So fingers crossed, folks, that soon, on this avenue that's increasingly dominated by corporate logos and heteronormative retail options, we'll all be watching porn, downing cocktails, ordering beef sliders and making love connections in one singular, sensational location.

And yet I remain skeptical. Depending on how you read it, this store is either the right step in a new direction or a desperate attempt at brick-and-mortar relevance in the face of a culture that prefers to court vice in the electronic realm.

If that's the direction Chelsea's swinging, then so be it. Eventually, I suppose, we'll all be snickering at that ancient tool called Grindr -- while achieving multiple braingasms courtesy of cybernetic avatars who carry a digital library of every filthy hookup we've ever had.

When that day comes, I guess I can live without a sound body -- if the tradeoff is an exquisitely maintained dirty mind.