Hell’s Kitchen is flexing its muscle! The former home of Posh — one of the original neighborhood gay bars back in the ’90s — has been transformed. The new LGBTQ+ hotspot, FLEX, has just thrown open its doors to a chorus of cheers from the local crowd. We snagged a sit-down with the masterminds behind this transformation, James Healey and Jason Wade Mann, for the lowdown on the work they put in to turn their dream into reality.

street view of gay bar called FLEX
Exterior view of FLEX at 405 West 51st Street. Photo Credit: Wilsonmodels

First announced almost two years ago, the journey to open FLEX at 405 West 51st Street (just west of 9th Avenue) hasn’t been without its challenges. The process began with six months of paperwork to obtain a liquor license from the State Liquor Authority. Though they received approval from Manhattan Community Board 4’s Business Licenses and Permits Committee, lingering complaints about the previous establishment set the bar very high for proving FLEX would not fall into the same pattern. However, this meticulous attention to detail set the tone for what was to come. 

FLEX Hell's Kitchen Bar
FLEX is currently soft opening on W51st Street. Photo: Wilsonmodels

The bar’s design was a collaboration with two architects from Pratt Institute, who worked closely with students to ensure every aspect was carefully considered. The result is a space that is more than just a renovation—it is a complete transformation. James and Jason had the opportunity to shape the bar exactly as they envisioned, with a focus on creating a visually stunning atmosphere. Local artist Jo Mar crafted the hand-sculpted mural that takes center stage. It is based on a photo shoot he did in the space with local friends who were more than happy to help bring his vision to life. The entire process took seven months to complete, with each of the four panels weighing approximately 250 lbs as the molds were being made.

hand sculpted mural by artist Jo Mar
Hand-sculpted mural by local artist Jo Mar catches your attention as soon as you walk in. Photo: Catie Savage

The attention to detail doesn’t stop at the artwork. The bar boasts original 120-year-old “Tiffany blue” glass windows salvaged from a Brooklyn warehouse, adding a touch of history to the contemporary design. The bar beams themselves come from a century-old Brooklyn townhouse, and the woodwork throughout the space is meticulously handcrafted.

The dedication to preserving the legacy of the location is evident in the decision to keep FLEX as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. As James said: “It was a gay space for almost 30 years and that was one of the main reasons Jason and I decided to take over the space. We wanted to keep it as a safe space for the gay community, but very much welcome for all. Our theme is come alone and meet friends, come with friends and make more friends.”

But FLEX is not just about creating a visually appealing space; it also aims to be a hub for community events. With large screens and projectors installed, the bar can host gatherings, presentations and even screen major sporting events. This versatility ensures that FLEX will be a vibrant and dynamic addition to the neighborhood.

Flex Owners James Healy and Jason Wade Mann
FLEX owners James Healey and Jason Wade Mann during work on the bar. Photo: Catie Savage

Beyond the interior, the owners have also made significant efforts to enhance the building’s infrastructure and exterior. Extensive plumbing work was completed and the façade has been meticulously restored, with broken tiles fixed and a fresh coat of paint applied. A new awning, adorned with colorful PRIDE flags, further adds to the bar’s vibrant presence on the block. FLEX aims to be a highlight of the neighborhood, both inside and out.

Meanwhile, next door at 403 W51st Street, Jason and James are preparing to open a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Store. Their eye-catching, brightly colored mural on the space previously occupied by the beloved Kahve arrived last week. James boasted, “the smell of waffle cones will be in at least a hundred-yard radius”.

We stopped by last night to check things out ourselves and the place was jumping. Bartender James, who previously worked at Taboon before a fire force it to shutter, rattled off an impressive variety of beers on tap. The crowd included locals eager to visit the new space and folks from around the city. As for food offerings, they will be partnering with a rotating selection of local restaurants to provide a range of tasty bites for delivery with orders being placed using custom QR codes. First up is American Retro, which recently moved to 985 9th Avenue (between 52nd & 53rd streets), after closing their original location on 11th Avenue and West 51st Street last August.

The owners shared their excitement about the opening of FLEX, with an official launch party set just in time for PRIDE weekend on Friday, June 23, a time when Hell’s Kitchen truly comes alive with its colorful celebrations. As FLEX finally opens its doors, Hell’s Kitchen has gained a new gem, inviting locals and visitors alike to experience the vibrant energy that this neighborhood has to offer.

patrons inside FLEX
Patrons enjoying the vibe inside FLEX on Wednesday night. Photo: Catie Savage
exterior view of former Posh bar
Extensive renovations were done to upgrade the exterior from when it was Posh. Photo: Phil O’Brien
interior of FLEX bar
Interior of FLEX with custom neon installation from a Brooklyn artist and a hand-sculpted mural by local artist Jo Mar. Photo: Wilsonmodels

Join the Conversation


  1. Yay! This makes me so happy even though I’m not really a bar-goer any more. Posh was such a welcome highlight back in the 90s and I remember when it first opened, visiting with all the gay neighbors from my apartment building on W 50th St. I’m so glad the space is renewed.

  2. This is not a LGBTQ…place. It’s a gay mens bar. Look at all the pictures; look at the artwork. They might say that women are welcomed but we’d be uncomfortable in this environment.

    1. Hey Lillianna, totally understand why you may think that. During their happy hour from 3-8pm there were much more women in attendance. From my personal experience visiting later in the evening last night, everyone was super friendly and welcoming. It doesn’t have the same exclusive feel as some of the other gay bars in the neighborhood. Why not give it a try?

      1. Division within the community? So sad to see this. The term LGBTQ represents a united front to battle discrimination and protect equal rights “United we stand divided we fall” is an expression that has helped many groups of people and unions stand together. Breaking the community into seperate bars seems discriminatory to me. There should be solidarity within the LGBTQ community. For one person to assume that all women would feel uncomfortable at Flex is an assumption that shouldn’t be made. If an individual doesn’t like a particular establishment…find another. I am not of the community, but i will drop by a drink to support a new biz in The Kitchen. I’ve been living here for decades, and I’m always learning about new places and things to do from reading W42.(mag not rag)

  3. First ever gay bar? Ever hear of Cleo’s AKA 9th Ave Saloon. One thing about this rag is that you people know nothing about Hell’s Kitchen.

    1. Thank you, Patricia! I disagree that this is a rag (I love W42St and think Phil is a neighborhood treasure), but Cleo’s was around well before Posh, if I remember correctly.

    2. Maybe you just woke up cranky, but I’m guessing that “these people” actually know a LOT more about Hell’s Kitchen than you do. I think this publication is a treasured neighborhood resource, and it’s unfortunate you’re unable to offer a minor correction without attaching an unnecessary insult.

  4. For the record: 9th Ave. Saloon, previously Cleo’s and before that Town & Country has been around for 1/2 a century. So, calling Posh the 1st anything is way off. Also, Calling the owners of the new FLEX “masterminds” suggests that they are donating to W42ST. Even so, you remain an indispensable contribution to the neighborhood!

    1. Hi Edward, we have updated the story to reflect that Posh was not the first gay bar in the neighborhood. Apologies for the oversight, honest mistake.

      “Masterminds” is a common turn of phrase, so no special treatment here as we report on all new businesses in the hood! The new owners did however put in a ton of work to not only gut renovate the bar space but also repainted the entire exterior of the building at their own expense and made extensive infrastructure improvements that benefit the tenants above as well. I’d say that amount of community investment is worthy of “masterminds” wouldn’t you?

      1. Thanks Catie.
        I think it is safe to say that we all stand by local small businesses. So I certainly welcome FLEX as opposed to another Dunkin’ Doughnuts.

  5. Thank you for telling me where AMERICAN RETRO is now! Best wings and cheeseburger with tater tots. Another great reason to go to Flex and now Retro.

  6. WOW simmer down Debbie downers…you don’t want to go then don’t…so much negative energy on the comments…

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