While data from the Lesbian Bar Project has revealed that there are less than two dozen lesbian bars left in the United States, down from more than 200 in the 1980s, there's new hope for lesbian spaces in the post-lockdown era.
Recent reporting by The New York Times delved into a growing trend in LGBTQ+ nightlife: the revival of the lesbian bar. Citing the project's data, the paper examined if the desire and need for queer spaces have come back into focus.
"We need a bar like this," Erica Butts, a 26-year-old performer who attended Dave's Lesbian Bar pop-up event in Queens, told the Times. "This is euphoric, it's a dream."
Dave's was created by Kristin Dausch, a nanny and performer in Astoria. Dausch has announced a plan to open a neighborhood lesbian bar to promote local musicians, mutual aid organizations, and fundraising events. They've been pooling donations with the intent to open a permanent space by the end of the year.
Dausch isn't alone. On the opposite coast, Lauren Richter, the founder of Hot Donna's Clubhouse in Los Angeles, plans to turn that monthly event night into a brick-and-mortar venue this year as well. "It's more of a safe haven than just a bar or a watering hole. It's so important to have a community space to congregate," she told the Times.
In order to do so, however, Richter needs to raise an estimated $1 million dollars -- and that's just the beginning. As Jen Jack Gieseking, author of an upcoming book about the history of lesbian bars told the Times, the costs of running a lesbian bar can be prohibitive. "People assigned female at birth generally drink less than people assigned male, and we have less leisure spending," explained Gieseking. And queer women tend to find partners outside of bars, including through activism, volunteering, or potlucks, they added.
Despite this and other challenges, these pop-ups continue to, well, pop up in places like Lesbian Social Detroit, She Life in Miami, Somebody's Sister in San Francisco, As You Are Bar in Washington, D.C., and GrrlSpot in New Orleans. All of this underscores what Kort Lee, an attendee of Dave's event in February, told the Times. "A lesbian-centered space is really special," said Lee. "I'm a trans nonbinary person, and lesbian culture is as expansive. There are not a lot of social spaces for lesbians, and it's important to keep that history alive, evolving, and thriving."