NEW YORK – The Lesbian Bar Project, a New York-based group founded by lesbian filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street, raised $ 117,000 last year to help lesbian bars across the country stay in business during the height of the crisis. COVID pandemic.
Bars funded by the project included Gossip Grill from San Diego and A League of Her Own from DC. Owner Dave Perruzza said he and his staff were grateful to receive a check for $ 7,000 from the Lesbian Bar Project earlier this year when the bar was closed under the city’s COVID closure order. There are no identified lesbian bars in Los Angeles that are part of the project.
The two women say their 2021 fundraising campaign for the project will raise more than $ 100,000 as part of their ongoing efforts to support the 21 remaining lesbian bars across the country.
“Like a lot of things during COVID, we took a lot for granted,” Street told The Blade, describing how she and Rose reacted when their city’s three remaining lesbian bars – two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn – closed as most of the other bars. and restaurants during the peak of COVID public health restrictions in 2020.
“Erica and I felt very connected to the bars there,” Street said. “And we started these discussions about, we miss our cherished spaces. And now they are closed. Where are we going?”
With their filmmaking skills as a backdrop and knowing that the already dwindling number of lesbian bars across the country were struggling to survive under COVID, the two launched a fundraising campaign for these bars called the Lesbian Bar Project. Among other things, they produced a video public service announcement with archive scenes of lesbian bars and the women who frequented them.
With financial support from the Jagermeister Liquor Company’s Save the Night campaign, which was launched to provide financial support for nightlife businesses such as bars and restaurants, Rose and Street organized the production of a separate 20-minute documentary film on the role lesbian bars play. in the lives of those who frequent them. Rose and Street are listed as the directors of the film.
Among those who are executive producers and who appear in the documentary is Lea DeLaria, comedian, actress and internationally renowned star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”.
Also appearing in the documentary, Jo McDaniel, a longtime DC lesbian activist, bartender and manager of several DC gay bars, who helped Perruzza open this bar as the city’s first full-time lesbian bar since it closed. from DC’s famous Phase One lesbian bar almost a decade ago.
McDaniel says she quit her job as manager of A League of Her Own last year to undertake, with her life partner Rachel Pike, the start of a new DC LGBTQ welcome bar called As You Are, which started operating online. McDaniel says she and Pike are actively looking for a storefront building in which to open As You Are as an in-person cafe and bar with a dance floor that will welcome lesbians and the LGBTQ community in general.
The documentary, which helped generate support for the project’s fundraising efforts, can be viewed for free on the group’s website at lesbianbarproject.com.
Earlier this month, the national dating app called Hinge announced that it is partnering with the Lesbian Bar Project and will make a first donation in August of $ 50,000 to help the project support lesbian bars in need. financial assistance.
The ad stated that Hinge would educate all of its US users about the “importance of LGBTQIA + establishments” and encourage its LGBTQ members to visit one of the bars for a date.
“The bars that make up the Lesbian Bar Project are not only a safe space, but an essential part of LGBTQIA + culture,” said Justin McLeod, Founder and CEO of Hinge. “Our hope is that this support will help these sacred spaces remain open this summer and beyond,” he said in the company statement.
The Lesbian Bar Project website provides a list of the 21 lesbian bars supported by the project. In a notice on the website, Rose and Street note that their initial fundraising campaign for 2021 has ended and that a financial statement with information on the amount raised will be released around Labor Day weekend. .
Rose told Blade that until she and Street decide on the project’s next course of action, they are calling on people to donate directly to one or more of the 21 lesbian bars listed on the website.
However, a notice on the website indicates that three of the bars – Cubbyhole of New York City; Sue Ellen of Dallas; and San Francisco’s Wildside West, “have graciously decided to withdraw” from the 2021 fundraising pool to allow more contributions to other bars that need it most.
“By the end of the 1980s, there were around 200 lesbian bars across the country,” said a statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website. “These bars are disappearing at an alarming rate, and we cannot afford to lose more of these vital establishments to the fallout from COVID-19,” the statement said.
Rose and Street said the decline in the number of lesbian bars, which began long before the start of the COVID pandemic, is due to a number of factors, including the overall success of the LGBTQ rights movement. Both said protections against discrimination in state and local laws, and the landmark 2015 US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, paved the way for lesbians and LGBTQ people. usually to feel comfortable going to bars that were not aimed specifically at lesbians.
They said that like its impact on gay bars in general, the rise of the internet and online dating has also had the effect of allowing lesbians to meet outside of bars and the like. “brick and mortar” establishments.
“So it’s like all of these factors combined with the pandemic are the reason a lot of these places are disappearing,” Rose said. “And that’s why Elina and I took action. Our goal is always to raise awareness. The money raised is definitely a bonus, ”she said. “We wanted to raise awareness and tell the stories of these bars. This will ensure that we remain indelible in our culture and ensure our survival. “
Rose was referring to one of the themes of her and the 20 Minute Street documentary – that the in-person interaction offered by lesbian bars and LGBTQ bars in general provides, among other things, an important part of LGBTQ culture. and the diversity of LGBTQ people. that online and virtual sites cannot provide.
“We believe that what makes a bar only lesbian is its priority to create a space for people of marginalized genders; including women, non-binary people and trans men, ”according to the statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website. “As these spaces aim to include all individuals from the diverse LGBTQIA + community, the Lesbian label belongs to all people who believe it empowers them,” the statement said.
“Without space, we lose power, validity, community security and access to intergenerational dialogue,” the statement added. “With the support of our community, we can make sure these bars not only get the financial help they need, but the referral they deserve. When our history is not protected, we must protect it ourselves.
Here is a list of the 21 remaining lesbian bars in the United States published by the Lesbian Bar Project:
A League of its own – Washington, DC
Alibi’s – Oklahoma City, Okla.
Babes from Carytown – Richmond, Virginia.
Blush & Blu – Denver
Boycott Bar – Phoenix
Cubbyhole – New York City
Frankie’s – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Ginger’s – Brooklyn, NY
Gossip Grill – San Diego, CA
Henrietta Hudson – New York City
Herz – Mobile, Ala.
My Sister’s Room MSR – Atlanta
Pearl Bar – Houston
Slammers – Columbus, Ohio
Sue Ellen’s – Dallas
The Backdoor – Bloomington, Ind.
The Lipstick Salon – Nashville, Tenn.
Walker Pint – Milwaukee, Wisc.
Wildrose – Seattle
Wildside West – San Francisco
Yellow Brick Road Pub – Tulsa, Okla.