Gay Bait and Switch

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Cleveland's gay club-hoppers are notorious for their cliques. Once you find a gang's home bar -- and it lets you in with nary a secret handshake -- it's damn near impossible to free yourself from its grip. Too bad nobody told Marc Hewlett. The owner of Hamilton's on Playhouse Square opened his chic, three-story bar last year to a flurry of fanfare. Mostly it was gays older than dirt who applauded Hewlett, since the neighborhood had been devoid of homo hot spots since the early '90s, when the equally posh Keys nightclub shuttered its doors on nearby Prospect. But the frenzy over Hamilton's gradually fizzled. Some nights, the attentive staff had nothing more to do than watch dust collect on the sleek, black-marble bar top. During two happy hours when we stopped by, a couple of amorous hetero couples caught us off guard as they nuzzled in the corner before taking off for the theater next door. And the construction on Euclid in front of the club didn't help matters. But by then, the gays had retreated to their safe havens at watering holes like Bounce and Grid/Orbit. Hewlett -- who moonlights as DJ Tinkerbell -- finally resigned himself to pulling a switcheroo on the gay glitterati: With barely a whisper, he turned Hamilton's straight earlier this month. In fact, we heard about the change from Hewlett's new Sunday-night hire, DJ Freeze. A longtime lesbi-fave jock, Freeze tells us that the clientele is now predominantly straight, "but the gays are welcome anytime." Cheers! -- Cris Glaser

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