Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tink's Pub

Tink's Pub
Tink's Pub

Location: 22 South Preston Street, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Opened: 2001

Closed: January 1, 2012

Here's a bare bones description of Tink's Pub from gaybarlouisville:

Tink's Pub is located at 2235 South Preston Street and is a lesbian bar that welcomes everyone. They have billiards, weekly events and drag shows.

Well, that's pretty straightforward. Other reviews make it sound like a more "mixed" kind of place. Like this one from GayCities:
Tink's Pub interior

One of the oldest clubs in Louisville
A friendly neighborhood bar where people feel comfortable to "come as you are." No expensive cover charges or fancy dress codes. Just people, drinks and a place to unwind.

This review from ehow comes somewhere down the middle:

Tink's Pub is a lesbian bar that opens its doors to the general public. Tink's has free pool on Tuesdays and karaoke on Wednesdays. Mondays have happy hour during opening hours. Tink's also has weekly events such as drag shows.

I think what this suggests is that we no longer have any consensus on what "lesbian bar" means anymore. But I digress....

Patron reviews were mixed, as they generally are. On the plus side was Bonnie M. in December 2008:

Tinks is a friendly little place to go, have treated Erica and I very nicely :) if you want a place to go where you can talk, then I recommend Tinks :)

And then on the minus side was (a rather snotty) MammyGraham in July 2010:

Ok, so the place was a total train wreck, but I'm no snob, so I was willing to have one drink at this place. But then the dude at the door says it's $5 cover. Say what? $5 for a run-down, dyke-infested shit hole? So I left without having a drink; something I never do.

Regardless of Tink's merits (or lack thereof), she became the latest lesbian bar death this past New Year's Eve. I'm starting to think there are more spotted owls than lesbian bars these days. From

Louisville's only lesbian bar to close New Year's Eve [LGBT]

After several lives over the years, Tink's Pub, a local lesbian bar, will once again close its doors after one last hooray on New Year's Eve.

The current incarnation, located at 2235 S. Preston, has been a central Louisville staple for ten years. The bar, which boasts that every night is ladies' night, has provided a great gathering space for ladies (and lots of men too) to shoot pool, play music in the jukebox, play video poker, throw darts, and sing karaoke. It also offered the occasional drag king show.

The owner had hoped that someone would offer to buy the bar before its closing, but no deal has been confirmed as of yet.

Saturday night's final celebration is themed "Cheers! to Ten Great Years!" The bar will be open its normal hours of 4:00 PM to 4:00 AM. Fans of the bar can post memories and messages on the bar's official Facebook page.

This obituary from Leo Weekly provides even more detail:

December 14, 2011

And then there were four
Louisville’s LGBT community loses two gay bars in one month

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, says that nationwide, gay bars have emerged as unintended collateral in the fight for acceptance. As more non-gay establishments welcome LGBT customers, creating friendly environments, the segregated model becomes somewhat antiquated.

“It’s very bittersweet. On the one hand, acceptance is increasing. There may be, in many people’s minds, a feeling that there is less of a need for specific lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender spots,” Hartman says. “We’re losing some of our history when we’re losing these places.”

It’s one reason Hartman is working with Preservation Louisville to mark significant locations in the city’s LGBT history.

“What we’ve found is that so many of these early spots were indeed bars,” Hartman says. “These safe gathering spots were nightlife hubs where folks could come and commiserate and not fear.”

Four gay bars remain open: The Connection, Tryangles, Marty’s Tavern and Teddy Bears. Longtime followers of Louisville’s LGBT culture say that’s the fewest number of local gay bars in decades.

Fleur de Lez is a lesbian social group that meets up for monthly happy hours. This month, organizer Zanne Koehne chose Tink’s — one last time. Gathered at a table in the well-worn billiards room, the young women chat about the loss of the city’s lone lesbian bar.

“I think some people want a little flashier, a little fancier,” Koehne says. “This is a hole in the wall. But it’s a fun hole in the wall.”

Several years ago, the bar drew a younger crowd, many from University of Louisville. But over the years, faces aged. Younger customers found new spots as other more mainstream bars in town increasingly offered sporadic “gay nights.” Still, Tink’s is a staple that many in this group say will leave a gap.

“I have no problem with gay or straight boys,” says Stacy Staggs. “But I like Tink’s because I’m bound to run into lesbians. And I like lesbians.”

Chris Riffle recently moved back to Louisville from Portland, Ore., a progressive city that she says just lost a decades-old lesbian bar.

“I think it’s because people are assimilating into mainstream culture,” Riffle says. “They don’t need that underground place to go to be a lesbian.”

Still, LGBT-friendly bars play a critical role. Holly Knight says when men and women decide to come out into their “authentic self,” the most likely place they’ll turn for support is in a spot where they’re sure to find similar people.

“I think these bars are more than just bars,” she says. “They’re safe places.”

Knight says Starbase Q had become that secure space for Louisville’s transgender and transsexual population. Overall, she feels Louisville is a very tolerant, hospitable city, but the threat of harassment and the fear of losing employment over an alternative lifestyle is real.

“I’m not saying every gay person needs to go to a gay bar to buy drinks and support it,” she says. “But I think gay bars are important in that way.”

Louisville’s gay bars date back to the 1930s, according to the Encyclopedia of Louisville. Many were in hotels, including the Beau Brummel at the Seelbach and the Beaux Arts at the Henry Clay Hotel.

These first bars were gay-friendly but not actually designated as “gay bars.”

But in 1953, Louisville’s first prominent gay bar — the Downtowner — opened on Chestnut Street. (It eventually burned down and relocated to the property that now houses The Connection.) Cate Fosl, director of the U of L Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, completed an oral history on LGBT culture in Louisville. She says the Downtowner was the target of the city’s first gay rights protest in 1970 by a group that came to be known as the Gay Liberation Front.

“Even though they had cross-dressing performers, they wouldn’t allow cross-dressing by bar patrons,” she says.

In the late ’70s, Mother’s Brew, a lesbian and feminist bar located at the current site of the Kentucky Convention Center, also became a hotbed for activism. Local community activist David Williams, who founded U of L’s Williams-Nichols archive stocked with local LGBT history, says gay- bar owners were reluctant to support the movement at the time. They worried acceptance would diminish their customer base.

“They didn’t come around until the ’80s,” Williams says. It was in the ’80s and ’90s that the number of gay bars multiplied, mostly in the downtown corridor, with as many as 10.

“Frankly, what I think started killing off bars is the Internet,” he adds. “The bars were about the only place where gays and lesbians would feel safe meeting new friends and possible love.”

In the late ’90s, that changed with the advent of dating websites and chat rooms. Williams doubts, though, that gay bars will become entirely a relic.

“There’s still quite a lot of folks in the gay and lesbian community who are shy about being seen in public as a gay or lesbian person,” he says. “So there is always going to be a need for a gay space, a lesbian space.”

The bar industry is notoriously fickle, and the recession has only made it harder to endure. Some argue there are just not enough patrons to support eight or nine gay bars in tough economic times.

Williams predicts it won’t be long before another gay bar opens. Still, as someone who’s followed the history of LGBT in Louisville, it’s hard not to take note of this particular moment.

“It fluctuates. But we’re back down to where we were 30 years ago,” Williams says. “It’s a bit surprising.”

To read more about the aforementioned Mother's Brew, see here.

Photo: Exterior of Tink's Pub  and interior

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