Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Other Side

1345 Half Street (2004). Building demolished in 2006
for Nationals Fields.
The Other Side

Location: 1345 Half Street, Washington, DC, USA

Opened: Mid 1970s (1978)

Closed: Late 1980s

In a September 2011 article on the plans for a new lesbian bar in Washington DC (Phase I of Dupont), we are treated to a brief history of lesbian bars in that city. Unfortunately, this is all we're told about The Other Side, which was owned by Allen Carroll--a gay man who also owns, or has owned, many other lesbian bars in Washington, including the long-running Phase I, which opened in 1970:

For over a decade, from the mid-1970s to the late-1980s, Carroll owned The Other Side, a lesbian club in the original Ziegfeld's space in Southeast D.C. where Nationals Park now sits. ''I've dedicated my career to the women,'' he says. ''They've been very good [to me].''

The address for Nationals Park is 1500 South Capitol Street. According to this source, the former The Other Side (later the gay male bar Ziegfeld's) was located somewhere in what is now left-center field.

The Other Side also gets a short mention in this February 2012 article on the grand opening of Phase I of Dupont:

''Chris [Jansen], my late partner, and I had always wanted to open up another women's bar,'' Carroll said earlier this week during an exclusive tour of the new space, which is still under construction. About a decade after opening Phase 1 in 1970, Jansen and Carroll launched The Other Side in the Southeast D.C. space that subsequently housed the original Ziegfeld's/Secrets complex. ''The Other Side was the main bar for lesbians in its day,'' says Carroll.

We get just a bit more information on The Other Side in this February 2010 article on the 40th anniversary of Phase I: 

So why and how did two gay men happen to open a lesbian bar in 1970? Carroll and Jansen, veterans of the Marines and Air Force respectively, had been dating a few years and worked at adjacent bars on Eighth Street, S.E., a D.C. gayborhood before Dupont Circle was gentrified. Carroll was at Joanna’s, a lesbian bar. Its brother bar was Johnny’s, where Jansen worked. They were owned by the same person but Joanna’s was closing so Carroll and Jansen sensed a need. Carroll says the Phase is the oldest continually operating lesbian bar in the country.

Carroll and Jansen had always had lots of lesbian friends — many from Joanna’s — so it didn’t feel a stretch to open a women’s bar. They eventually opened the Other Side, a larger lesbian venue that was more a club than a bar, which eventually morphed into the male-focused drag/strip club Ziegfeld’s/Secrets in the mid-’80s. It eventually closed when the Nationals stadium was built but reopened a year ago on Half Street.

Phase 1, though, has been the constant. It’s still at its original location. Carroll says there have been ups and downs over the years but he and Jansen never thought of closing it.

It made sense, for instance, to transform the Other Side into Ziegfeld’s because several D.C. bars by that time had started lesbian nights and had stolen some of Side’s thunder. The Phase, though, “always felt like home base,” Carroll says.

One of the best summaries of Washington, DC women's spaces is the Rainbow History Project Women's Tour. Make sure you check it out, as it's absolutely fascinating and quite comprehensive. This is what the Women's Tour had to say about The Other Side: 
The Other Side — 1345 Half St SE Owners Carroll and Jansen opened a popular women's’bar in 1978 on the site of early gay male dance clubs.  This was their second lesbian club (after the Phase One).  The Other Side was a popular women's dance bar and restaurant for a decade, adding weekend drag shows in the 1980s.

I'm sure Chris Jansen and Allen Carroll are very nice men and all that. At least all their women employees vouch for them, for what it's worth. However, it is indicative of the perpetual ongoing economic struggles of women in general--and lesbians in particular--that nearly all the lesbian bars in Washington, DC have not been owned by women but by men. Says a lot about our ongoing problems with lack of access to capital, political connections, and all the other resources necessary to get a business going in the nation's capitol. Or elsewhere for that matter.

Go here for an earlier post on Jo-Anna's and other former lesbian bars in DC. 

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