Friday, September 16, 2011

Six Degrees

Six Degrees ad
Six Degrees

Location: 3175 India Street, San Diego, California, USA

Opened: 2001

Closed: August 30, 2006

Here is clubzone's terse description:

San Diego's ONLY women's bar! Hot women, hot music, hot specials Open 7 days a week. Check our website for more information.

And there's more:

Six Degrees is a bar where women can be free to be themselves. We are an openly Lesbian establishment where everyone is welcome to have fun and enjoy themselves in a beautiful and relaxed San Diego club.
We offer everything from live bands to hopin' Friday night DJs and everything in between.
Six Degrees has two full bars for you to choose from. The indoor Club consists of a full bar, pool table, dart board, video games, four TVs, a large dance floor, and a killer sound system for our evening fun! Karaoke takes place in the Club with a variety of hostesses who all entertain endlessly.
Our outside smoke-friendly Patio Bar offers a full selection of alcohol and draft beers to choose from, four TVs, heaters for the cold days, umbrellas for the warm ones, and all of our bars are stocked with some of the friendliest and attractive bartenders in all of San Diego!
Our owners and staff are committed to offering a friendly, fun, safe, environment for everyone. Please come and join us. "We're havin' a party!"

And here's clubfly:

In a nutshell: Womens bar with pool table, dartboard, video games, karaoke, drag-kings, four TVs, smoke-friendly patio bar, live bands and a large dance floor...

And then she was gone. Notice that in the obituary below, that Six Degrees hosted many events and fundraisers to support the lesbian community--a theme we have seen at many other closed lesbian bars across the country. And notice how much the loyal customers valued the bar as a "second home" and "refuge."

So why did she die? The usual reasons are suggested: younger lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender women just didn't show up. They felt no need to "protect their establishments." They preferred the gay men's bars--even though their "women's nights" certainly suggest marginalized treatment.

And needless to say, it's hard to imagine that the boys' bars will be putting on a fundraiser for a sister with breast cancer or to raise uniform money for the local dyke softball team.

But it's all just a party, ya know? Loss of lesbian community means nothing.

Here's the obituary from the Gay and Lesbian Times:

For four decades, the bar at 3175 India Street has been an institution in the San Diego gay and lesbian community.

Throughout it final days, the bar touted banners that read: “Six Degrees… proud to be part of 40 years of gay history at 3175 India St,” and on Aug. 30, the last drink was served, the final dance was danced and the last goodbye was said. The bar Six Degrees has closed it doors forever.

According to Darla Marcus, Six Degrees manager and bartender of seven years, four different gay or lesbian bars have called this location home. The bar originally opened as The Swing and then became A Different Drum after a change in ownership. Both of these venues were predominately patronized by gay males.

Changing hands again, the bar became the well-known Club Bombay, which is when it became a lesbian hangout. Five years ago, the club was sold one more time to two of the bartenders and a regular customer and was given its final name, Six Degrees.

During its five years of operation, Six Degrees was host to a number of regular events, special events and fund-raisers. In fact, fund-raisers were a regular part of Six Degrees’ business.

“If someone wanted to do a fund-raiser, we’d say ‘bring it on!’” Marcus said.

Numerous organizations and causes were the beneficiaries of fund-raising events at Six Degrees throughout the years. Groups like Dyke March San Diego, WomenMoto and women’s sports teams all held events at the bar. Fund-raisers for community members in need, friends that were ill and bar patrons who passed away were all welcomed at Six Degrees. Marcus said it was hard to recall all of the fund-raising events held at the bar because there were “just so many.”

A number of regular events comprised the bar’s weekly lineup, including Monday night open mic and karaoke with Laura Jane, a Wednesday evening drag king show, happy hour and live music on Friday night followed by DJs and dancing, and the famous Six Degrees Sunday, which included breakfast, cheap drinks and an afternoon barbecue. According to two regular patrons who wanted to be identified as just Carla and Julie: “You bring just $20 and spend an entire [day] at Six Degrees. Start with the $1 breakfast, enjoy the $1 bloody Marys and mimosas, and enjoy the afternoon barbecue for $2.”

Carla and Julie, who are known around the bar as “the neighbors” – their house literally sharing a wall with the south side of the club – said this is “a tradition gone.”

Marcus looks back fondly on a number of events that took place at Six Degrees throughout the years. One of her favorite regular events was a contest called “Thongs & Things,” a strip contest similar to the underwear contests held at other clubs, which once was held weekly at Six Degrees.

Marcus also holds fond memories of the Jell-O and lube wrestling contests the bar hosted, and recalled a one-time pudding wrestling contest, emphasizing that this was truly a one-time event. “Pudding didn’t clean up off the walls as easily as the lube or Jell-O did,” she said.

A sad feeling permeated the neighborhood bar during its final days. A few weeks prior to closing, bar management encouraged patrons to grab a marker and share their memories, feelings and thoughts about the closure of Six Degrees on the building’s interior brick walls. Hundreds of messages were scribbled throughout the bar’s inside and outside areas, as well as in the restrooms and in the cashier booth. Some patrons expressed their love for each other, while others shared sentiments about the closing of Six Degrees.

Writings on the walls ranged from things like “Sarah loves Katie” to “I’ll miss my second home and all those I befriended here.” Another said “Things I have done at Six Degrees (or because of Six Degrees),” and then the writer listed off 14 of those things, which ranged from “danced on the bar” to “met the love of my life.”
Six Degrees was like a second home to many of its patrons. Cindy Kuder, known around the bar as just “Kuder,” patronized the establishments inside of 3175 India St. for close to 22 years. When asked how she felt about the closing of her favorite hangout, Kuder replied: “It’s really sad…. This was more than a bar, it was a refuge.”

She enjoyed being able to come to a place that was comfortable, where she could hang with like-minded women. She compared the loss of Six Degrees to losing a home.

“You can’t imagine ever having the same type of feeling as you did in that place,” she said.

Carla agreed with Kuder, saying that the closing of Six Degrees “is really sad.”

Julie mentioned that upon moving to San Diego, she found that Club Bombay was “one of the most exciting places for ladies.”

“It has changed a lot over the years, but it is so sad that it’s closing,” she added. “There really is no other place like it.”

So what happened to Six Degrees? While the bar held on as long as it could – the original closing date was supposed to be last spring – the closure was inevitable. According to Marcus, it was simply a matter of economics. As fewer women patronized the place, it became difficult for the business to make ends meet.
Some theorize that as the community has evolved, younger lesbian, bisexual and transgender women don’t feel the need to strictly go to lesbian- or women-oriented bars. Marcus mentioned that not only are the traditional “boy bars” hosting more women’s nights, but GLBT people are continuously more comfortable visiting clubs in places like San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.

The increase in choices for women outside of the traditional lesbian-oriented establishments along with the sense that younger women in the community don’t feel the need to “protect their establishments” Marcus attributes to the declining popularity of what was San Diego’s last lesbian bar.

Marcus expressed disappointment in the closing of the bar she called her home. “In San Diego, there are lesbians everywhere, yet we can’t keep even one lesbian bar open,” she said.

Prior to its closure, many regular customers and employees of Six Degrees agreed they didn’t know what they would do after their favorite bar closes. Certainly a number of women- and lesbian-themed nights are held weekly at many of San Diego’s other bars and clubs, but several members of the Six Degrees family who were interviewed mentioned that none of these venues capture the feeling that the bar on India Street did.

Kuder said she would support another women’s bar if one were to open in San Diego, but reiterated that it still wouldn’t be the same.

According to Marcus, there are no full-time lesbian venues left in town, and as far as she knows, there are no plans to open a new lesbian bar in town.

Six Degrees did end its run with a bang. The final “Drag It Out” show with the San Diego Kings Club took place on Aug. 23, followed by a Lavender Lens Speed Dating Party on Aug. 24. The “Last Weekend Blast,” held last weekend, featured special performances by the San Diego Kings Club in addition to live music and the final “Wet Sunday” breakfast, barbecue and beer bust.

Local entertainer and MC Laura Jane hosted her final open mic night on Monday. And the last night at Six Degrees, the “Grand Finale,” was hosted in the club on Wednesday. Laura Jane made a surprise appearance and hosted the night of dancing, reminiscing and final goodbyes at the club.

Six Degrees’ Web site summed up their closing well: “The end of an era.”

The space is now taken up by Starlite, an apparently straight bar.

Quest for the Crown ad, Six Degrees

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