Like many LGBTQ Detroiters, husbands Luis and Joshua Mandujano met at Gigi's Gay Bar, the combo bar and cabaret that has been a hotspot for gay nightlife in the city for nearly 50 years. In fact, before the Mandujano's even began dating, they had regularly attended Gigi's for 20 years collectively. So, when the former owners made the decision to sell, Luis Mandujano was thrilled to get an offer.
"It's very near and dear to our hearts," he said. "[When] we were approached by the current owners and asked if we were interested in taking over the property we discussed it, and we knew that it would be a big challenge because of the work that it needed, but we agreed."
In the following months, Mandujano said that Gigi's has received a several-hundred thousand-dollar "rejuvenation" that he called a much-needed "facelift."
"It needed just a fresh paint job, holes in the wall that needed to be patched, leaks in the ceiling that were coming from the rooftop, faucets that didn't work, toilets that were in ill repair — just a number of those things," he said. "Now, we have what we call a five-to-10-year plan and part of that plan is to expand to an outdoor patio area."
Already, however, the duo has been hosting outdoor parking lot events. This has been a means of both socially distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic and putting on events while waiting for the finalization of a patio permit. Currently, the Mandujano's have expanded upon Gigi's offerings and have been doing Sunday morning brunch shows that, when it's safe for customers once again, can be moved indoors.
"We'll be able to expand it and have much more variety as far as individual performers and food," Luis Mandujano said, adding that he plans to continue the outdoors shows at Gigi's as well.
He also emphasized the safety precautions that he and Gigi's staff members have implemented to keep patrons from catching COVID-19.
"Facemasks [are required], and if you don't have them we provide them at the door. Temperature checks are done as you enter the venue, so if you come back the following day they're done again. It doesn't matter. All employees are required to check temperatures daily and we record those. We require hand-sanitizing stations throughout the bar and we have signage that explains that social distancing is required," he said. "And we have seating outdoors in the parking lot patio and it's spaced apart six-to-eight feet as is required by the executive order. And we're under a tent that doesn't have any sidewalls, so mother nature does the ventilating with the breeze that comes through."
Additionally, there are future plans to convert some of the kitchen into storage and knock some of the ceilings out to give Gigi's "the industrial look." But as many changes that have been implemented and that are planned for the future of Gigi's, Mandujano made clear that the core of the establishment will remain the same.
"This [COVID-19] environment has changed the dynamic dramatically, but one of the things that we told the individuals that were looking to offer us that venue was that we wanted to stay true to the roots of Gigi's and make sure that the community was inclusive of all individuals to include a variety of performers," he said. "… That's one of the things that we have and will continue to stay true to: a venue where a variety of performers can continue to come and express their artistic inner selves."
And regarding operations, Mandujano said that the show director for Saturday, Friday and Monday events has been kept on. A former officer in the military, Luis Mandujano emphasized that he takes a family approach to running Gigi's alongside his husband.
"Just like the military, we're a family and we need to take care of one another. And just like any other family, we'll have our disagreements and our agreements, but we all have to carry some of the requirements to continue this business to go forward," he said, adding that money isn't the driving factor behind owning and operating Gigi's.
"We want our patrons and our employees to take ownership of that business and to make sure that it grows for the sake of the community, and I want to be able to offer that in whatever way we can — whether it be by being a charitable venue, offering charity through finances or by other means," he continued. "We are a unique venue to the LGBTQ community, and we want to continue to be inclusive of all."
Find out more about Gigi's online on its Facebook page.