Spring has sprung — and so have a few new gay bars.
Like many small businesses, gay bars were hard-hit by the pandemic, which forced the closure of most indoor watering holes across the country. The loss was felt acutely by LGBTQ+ folks, who often relied on these venues for safe spaces and connection, sometimes over the span of decades.
Even before the pandemic, the decline of gay bars was a sad trend; 37 percent of these establishments shuttered between 2007 and 2019 in the United States, according to one study.
As COVID-19 restrictions ease, however, some new LGBTQ+ establishments have opened, offering signs of hope to a struggling industry and community. In Oakland, Calif., Qué Rico, a nightclub and restaurant, was launched earlier this month; it is the first of its kind to open in the Bay Area in years, reports S.F. Gate. The venue is already hosting a popular drag show.
Qué Rico is not the only sign of new life. Another bar and lounge, Town, is set to open soon in Oakland as well. That, along with the White Horse Inn and Port Bar, will raise the city's number of LGBTQ+ bars to four.
A few states eastward, Tight End has opened in Denver, reports The Know. It is owned by Steven Alix, who is also the proprietor of X Bar, another gay haunt in the Colorado capital. Tight End will be the first major gay sports bar in Denver, and it plans to partner with LGBTQ+ sporting leagues for events.
The openings follow the news of gay N'SYNC alumnus Lance Bass signing the lease of the building that once housed Rage, one of the many gay bars that shuttered in West Hollywood this past year. A promotion for the new venue promises it will be "the biggest gay nightclub in the USA."
In a recent interview with The Advocate, Jacqui Squatrigilia, the co-owner of Flaming Saddles, which shuttered its West Hollywood location last year, pointed to the LGBTQ+ community's resilience in hoping for a brighter next chapter. “The community’s fought before; it’ll fight again,” Squatriglia said. “And we have to just remember that and see the light and rise up and not get in a dark place.”