Gay Crosse was a well-known Cleveland musician from the mid-1930s to 1950s, but many do not know that he was a local business owner. Through Crosse’s illustrious career as a saxophone player and front man for the band Good Humor Six, he was able to save his earnings and become the owner and operator of three local businesses. In 1954, Crosse opened Gay’s Tourist Home at 2117 East 83rd Street and the Musicians and Entertainers Club next door at 2123 East 83rd. Two years later, he opened Gay’s Bar-B-Q restaurant behind his tourist home, which shared its address.
Gay’s Tourist Home, later known as Gay’s Hotel, opened by April 1954. The tourist home was open to African Americans who were visiting Cleveland temporarily or for those who needed more permanent housing. Gay Crosse provided clean and quiet rooms for female and male visitors. He also provided ample parking for those who drove to Cleveland rather than using public transportation. When there were large events in Cleveland, some people visiting from out of town sometimes stayed at Gay’s Tourist Home. During the World Series in 1954, visitors who could not find a room at major Cleveland hotels, such as the Majestic Hotel, stayed at Gay’s Tourist Home. He also wanted to have the hotel serve as a place for touring musicians to stay. After its first year of operation, the tourist home was referred to as Gay’s Hotel in Call & Post advertisements.
In addition to the hotel, Gay Crosse and his associate Leroy Crump opened Gay’s Drive-In Bar-B-Q in 1956. Although the restaurant could not be seen from the street, it was halfway between Cedar and Carnegie and was directly behind Gay’s Hotel. Gay’s Drive-In Bar-B-Q served barbecue ribs, shoulders, steak, and chicken in two dining rooms. There was one dining room on the ground floor and one on the second floor. The building was newly constructed and outfitted with the latest air conditioning to ensure that patrons were comfortable. The restaurant was open all night and patrons could call ahead and reserve a private dining room or show up and request a private dining room if one was available. There was also a delivery service that would bring a customer’s order to their home. To get more customers, Gay’s often advertised bargain deals in the Call & Post, such as offering all the chicken giblets and rice you could eat for 65 cents. Occasionally, there was also live music, such as jazz musician Hugh Thompson. Crosse and Crump wanted a restaurant that served barbecue at reasonable prices that would attract a broad clientele.
The hotel and restaurant continued to have patrons visit up until Gay Crosse’s death from an unsuccessful open-heart surgery in March 1971. Due to his untimely death, his barbecue restaurant required new management. By July 1971, John Dove reopened Gay’s Barbecue and became the new proprietor. However, he remained proprietor for only a year. In July 1972, Leroy Crump’s relative Ernie Crump became the manager of the restaurant. In 1976, Gay’s Barbecue and Gay Crosse’s Musicians and Entertainers Club closed. In 1977, Gay’s Hotel was the last of Gay Crosse’s businesses to close. For nearly twenty years, Gay’s Hotel provided visitors to Cleveland a place to stay, and Gay’s Barbecue served up some of the best barbecue in Cleveland.
- “Bottles Zoom in Wild Café Assault, 2 Hurt.” Call & Post, May 27, 1961.
- “Display Ad 9 — No Title.” Call & Post, January 13, 1973.
- “Display Ad 9 — No Title.” Call & Post, March 20, 1954.
- “Display Ad 10 — No Title.” Call & Post, April 10, 1954.
- “Display Ad 10 — No Title.” Call & Post, July 29, 1972.
- “Display Ad 14 — No Title.” Call & Post, July 24, 1971.
- “Display Ad 15 — No Title.” Call & Post, December 02, 1972.
- “Display Ad 16 — No Title.” Call & Post, October 30, 1954.
- “Display Ad 21 — No Title.” Call & Post, January 09, 1960.
- “Display Ad 23 — No Title.” Call & Post, December 17, 1960.
- “Display Ad 30 — No Title.” Call & Post, June 27, 1959.
- Fuster, John. “Thousands Plan to See Baseball Classic: Cleveland Dineries, Niteries Set for World Series Invasion.” Call & Post, September 25, 1954.
- “Gay’s Barbecue.” Call & Post, October 28, 1972.
- “Gay’s Bar B Q.” Plain Dealer, October 13, 1963.
- “Gay’s Drive-in Barbecue is Cozy Retreat.” Call & Post, September 8, 1956.
- “Hi-Lo’s Are Dynamic.” Plain Dealer, August 26, 1956.
- J.E.F. “Photo Standalone 20 — No Title.” Call & Post, December 7, 1957.
- “Open Heart Surgery Fails Gay Crosse.” Call & Post, March 13, 1971.
- “Pistol Packing Mama-to-Be Holds up Hotel.” Call & Post, June 20, 1970.
- “’Specials’ Are the Thing at The Wheel and Gay’s Barbecue.” Call & Post, October 12, 1957.
- “Woman Robbed, Attacked.” Plain Dealer, January 3, 1961.