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Homo improvement

A Halsted fixture retools for the 21st century.

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Things are getting hotter at the Ram Bookstore (3511 1/2 N Halsted St, 773-525-9528), a Boystown sex shop with a back room and video booths. Only this time, it’s the music, not the movies, that is getting the sweat rolling. On IML weekend, a renovated Ram premiered a new late-night dance floor.

Opened in 1977 during the gay-lib heyday, the Ram (often referred to as “a gay treasure”) has long been a curiosity to youthful passersby on the North Halsted strip while maintaining a devoted following of 800 to 1,000 weekly regulars who cruise the labyrinthine maze of back rooms and private video booths. General manager Jeff Shand (also GM for Boystown’s Leather Sport and Cupid’s Treasure and Andersonville’s Banana Video) says he wanted to update the Ram for the post-Stonewall generation. “Thirty-two years is a long time to be here, so you have to change it,” Shand says. “The crowd I have is great, but I want the newer crowd.”

Intrigued by the sight of sweaty twenty- and thirtysomethings spilling out of Hydrate and Circuit at 3 or 4am on weekends, Shand decided to give them a place to keep dancing—and maybe more. In addition to replacing the video booths’ old TVs with flat-screen monitors and ripping out the wood in the bathrooms and adding tile (they look great), Shand got rid of some of the backroom booths and installed a dance floor complete with a DJ booth, fog machine and lighting system. On weekends, the new space will crank out techno music for the after-after-hours crowd; during the week, it’ll double as a porn theater. Not that the refurb was easy. “I had to knock out the very back corner because they were doing the nasty water sports,” Shand says.

He’s also hiring talent like DJ Ron G (Spin, Hunters) and Freddie Bain (Boom Boom Room, Neo, Spin, Crobar) to keep the party going (sans alcohol) until 7am. Admission is $15, a steep cover for Halsted Street, but as Shand is quick to point out, Ram offers much more than dancing. “You can cruise, you can dance and you can play until early-morning light.” We suspect the emphasis will remain firmly fixed on play.

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