Lexington in San Francisco. Sisters in Philadelphia. Meow Mix in New York City. Across the U.S., nearly 200 lesbian bars have been closed permanently since the 1980s, with about 20 remaining unresolved after the Covid-19 epidemic forced many to close temporarily last year. Toasted Walnut, Philadelphia's last couple of bars, became a big hit when it officially closed in January.
The "Lesbian Bar Project," a new documentary from Brooklyn, New York filmmakers Elina Street and Erica Rose released on Thursday in Pride Month, examines the decline and evolution of these endangered areas and aims to raise funds to support the rest.
"We wanted to delve deeper into the dialogue and showcase the gaps in depth and show how these gaps change as a result of the epidemic, how they open and what they offer - hopefully, a safer and healthier future," Road said.
Executive directed by "Orange Is the New Black" star Lea DeLaria (who also appears in the film) and sponsored by Jägermeister's Save the Night campaign, "The Lesbian Bar Project" second fundraiser of the same name, which raised the first $ 117,504 bar during the epidemic-related closure last year. Street and Rose hope to add an extra $ 200,000 to these facilities, some of which have not been able to get government assistance and have had to make their own living.
The number of barriers for couples is declining for a number of reasons, including rising taxes due to ordination, the systemic difficulties women often face in obtaining financial support to open and maintain businesses and the fact that many women simply lack the rest of the dollars to spend on exits. But these gaps also suffer because many young women are turning to dating apps and are not going through the same hurdles as before.
"As the general public began to accept homosexuals, you didn't have to go to a gay club," said Lisa Menichino, owner of New York City's Cubby Hole bar. "You take it lightly, don't realize it's something you have to support, something you have to feed, something you have to go to."
When these barriers are closed, young women lose more than their connection point, Rose said.
"They are community centers, they are places for generations of dialogue, and it is very important to have a space that promotes gender equality in the LGBTQ community," he said.
This film, available for free on YouTube, opens with a history of these posts and is not ashamed of some of their darkest passing. Many barriers now closed, including Bonnie & Clyde, a popular gay community in Manhattan that closed in 1982 after a decade of running, imposed discriminatory policies that reduced the number of Black women who could enter.
The filmmakers wanted to "really see the lack of involvement" that plagued these early gaps, Road said. Moving viewers between New York City, Washington, D.C., and Mobile, Alabama, the film also features modern bar owners working to make their venues more accessible to women of color, men and women and gay people, among others. That is the work of Jo McDaniel and my colleague Rach Pike, who are working to open the As You Are Bar in Washington, which they hope will start this year.
"As You Are Bar's goal is to bring it all together. It's because we're celebrating, we're not just tolerating culture," McDaniel said in the documentary.
Lisa Cannistraci, right, owner of Henrietta Hudson's New York, N.Y., in a standing photo from "The Lesbian Bar Project." Lesbian Bar Project
In an effort to get more people involved, some bar owners have gone so far as to label their venues as "homosexual". Among them is Henrietta Hudson owner Lisa Cannistraci, who rebuilt her former New York City bar as a "bar queer human built by lesbians" and changed its logo from a woman's portrait to a gender-neutral symbol, a controversial decision in the dating community. He also turned the bar at the age of fifty into a lounge cafe.
“The reason we wanted to change our brand is because a lot of women who like women don’t portray themselves as same-sex, and that’s okay,” Cannistraci said in the film. "We must end the stigma attached to our communities."
Vacancies for senior women have never been a monolith, says Rose, who said men and women, passers-by and non-registrars always protect such spaces, even though they are rarely seen or accepted.
"I think that's one of the reasons why our neighborhoods continue to die," he said, "because there's a problem, and sometimes there's a military definition of what it means to be gay."
Rachel Smallman, left, and his wife, Sheila, owners of Herz Mobile, Alabama, still from "The Lesbian Bar Project." Lesbian Bar Project
Not all bar owners ignore a lesbian label. Rachel and Sheila Smallman, owners of Herz at Mobile, adhere to the term, recognizing the discrimination and segregation they face as homosexuals in Alabama prestigious culture.