Monday, March 31, 2014

Women-only self-defense classes

Glendale's Commission on the Status of Women holds
self-defense classes in April on city property
for women and girls in honor of
Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Women-only self-defense classes

Location: Glendale, California, USA

Closed: April 2014?

So the Men's "rights" (supremacy) groups are even threatened by a privately funded self-defense class for women. Never mind that there are all kinds of sports and fighting options that are just for men. Can't let the ladies learn to fight back on their own, can we?

If you can manage to read the gag-inducing comments, it's really about the menfolk simultaneously denying and promoting sexual violence against women. But that's no surprise. Standard issue propaganda for the Men's Rights dudes.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Men's group objects to women's self-defense classes in Glendale

March 28, 2014, 4:17 p.m.

A men's group is objecting to Glendale offering free self-defense classes to women only, saying the city is violating federal and state civil rights laws that protect against sexual discrimination.

The National Coalition for Men outlined its opposition in a letter sent this month to city officials, the Glendale News-Press reported.

For years, Glendale's Commission on the Status of Women has held self-defense classes in April on city property for women and girls in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This is the first time the National Coalition for Men, which was established in 1977, has sent a letter asking the city to open the classes to men and boys.

Harry Crouch, president of the San Diego-based nonprofit that aims to end gender-based stereotypes, said his organization was only recently made aware of the classes.

According to the letter, the classes, which are set to take place in the Glendale Police Department's community room twice next month, "violate a host of federal and California anti-discrimination laws."

"Such female-exclusive or male-exclusive actions by government and private actors violate the equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and California Constitution," the letter states.

"It always astounds me that some of our governmental agencies who are charged with protecting us from violations of law simply acquiesce to things like this," Crouch said, adding anyone can be a victim of sexual assault.

In the United States, about 10% of all sexual assault victims are male, according to statistics provided by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Sexual assault includes sexual touching, forced penetration and other crimes. Since receiving the letter, city officials have done preliminary research into the matter and have found that there may be federal law that permits the self-defense classes for women, but more research into state law is planned.

After the research is complete, officials intend to send a response to the National Coalition for Men as well as review the class structure, if necessary.

The classes are paid for by fundraising by the Commission on the Status of Women, said Senior Assistant City Atty. Lucy Varpetian.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kathy's Nut Hut

Kathy's Nut House logo (around 1995)
Kathy's Nut Hut

Location: 1500 West Scott Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Opened: 1982 (also reported as 1980)

Closed: February 2014




Nut Hut is closed
Dawn Musbach, most recent
owner of Nut Hut 

In 2011, my friend Dave Mikolajek – you might know him as "College Dave" – introduced me to Kathy’s Nut Hut (usually referred to as simply "Nut Hut"), 1500 W. Scott St.

It had already been around for more than two decades and I was eager to tell the story of this wonderful neighborhood LGBT bar.

Dave told me today that the Nut Hut is closed. The owners, supposedly, sold the bar to a new owner. At this point, not much else is known.

The original owner, Kathy Krau, sold the business a few years ago to friend and Nut Hut bartender, Michelle Murphy, who ran the business with her partner, Dawn Musbach.

The first three paragraphs of the piece I wrote in 2011 sum up the place quite well, I think.

Kathy Krau did not intend to open a lesbian bar when she opened Kathy's Nut Hut, 1500 W. Scott St., in 1982. She says she thought she was opening primarily a "straight" bar, especially since she inherited the mostly heterosexual neighborhood clientele from the previous bar.

But it didn't take long for gay women, particularly those involved on softball and pool teams, to find the place. Word traveled fast through the lesbian community that Krau, who is gay, opened a comfortable, affordable tavern.

What happened next is almost idyllic. The old-school clientele, members of the LGBT community and young, new guys from the neighborhood started hanging out in the same space. And they interacted. And they got along.

I am sorry to see the Nut Hut go. It was another example of Milwaukee’s ability to practice tolerance and acceptance. I hope to report more on Nut Hut – and what will become of the space – when the information becomes available.

Here's more from the earlier article referenced above:

Nut House interior (2012)
The secret to Nut Hut's three-decade-long success, she [Dawn Musbach] says, is the diversity, the tradition and the prices. Pints of beer are $2 and bottles, including imports, are $3. They have nightly specials, like Tipsy Tuesday, offering up $5 pitchers and $2 shots of Jack Daniels and 2-4-1 Thirsty Thursdays.

Plus, they often serve food during baseball and football games, and not just the typical crock pot of chili. During a recent Packers game they had Indian tacos. Whenever there are leftovers, a woman from across the street comes over and delivers the food to neighborhood people and shelters.

"Whether people knew us as Kathy's or Nut Hut, they know that we're good people and our prices are cheap," says Musbach.

Nut Hut has continued the softball tradition and still has teams today. They also have dart leagues, a pool table, video games (including Ms. Pac Man) and, up until recently, karaoke. Bruce Tabora, a dear friend of the owners who passed away last summer, hosted the karaoke nights and Musbach says it hasn't felt right to bring back the event just yet.

2011 brought a lot of loss into Murphy's and Musbach's lives, which was the main reason why they did not participate in the Pride Parade last June, even though they had created a float almost every year prior and won multiple trophies.

There is a large collage of photos of Tabora hanging on the wall of the bar, not far from another cluster of photos memorializing other employees and friends who have passed away. Over the years, they have had many raffles to raise money for ill employees and customers or their families.

"If somebody needs someone, we step up to the plate," says Musbach.

Musbach says she and Murphy, who have been together for six years, have traveled to many other cities, and are yet to find a bar with the same vibe as Nut Hut. Despite the hardships, which include a challenging economy, they know they have something pretty special.

"We have it really good here. People are really accepting," she says. "There's been no trouble here. None."

Here's the account from History of Gay & Lesbian Life, Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

Kathy's Nut Hut
Kathy's Nut Hut, widely known as The Nut Hut, was opened approximately 1980 by (who else) Kathy. Long quasi-gay (with a wide lesbian clientele), the bar "officially" was pronounced by the owner as a lesbian/ gay bar late in 1992, when it began advertising in In Step. (IS SO 9-25)

Kathy owned the bar for about 22 years, until selling it to Michelle in about 2002. Michelle continued to operate the bar, known simply as The Nut Hut, as an openly lesbian/gay bar, with a sizeable regular clientele and good relations in the neighborhood. The bar closed in February 2014.

Customer reviews were mixed--as they invariably are. At yelp, there was at least one patron who complained of crime at the Nut Hut:

People get robbed, held at gun point, food sucks, pool table is pretty much unavailable all night, patrons fight ALL the time, no security in a high crime neighborhood.

So, if you can deal with the chance that you will get robbed and nobody cares enough to help you or call the cops, it is worth the cheap drink. However, I'd keep my visit during daylight hours and pretty short.

But over at FourSquare, the reviews were pretty positive. One example:

It's just like "cheers" good times, great place, great lady
Tori N. · June 13, 2010

Saturday, March 29, 2014

First Out Cafe Bar

First Out Café Bar
First Out Café Bar

Location: 52 St Giles High Street, London, England

Opened: 1986

Closed: October 29, 2011

From The Most Cake:



First Out is closing:
London loses its one lesbian café

by Petit Fours
Where are we going to go for awkward first dates now?

The decimation of Soho’s gay scene continued with the announcement that cafe First Out will open for its last night on 29th October – three weeks time. The cafe’s been around since 1986 but has been pushed out of its building 52 St Giles High Street because of high cost of the lease.

All over Facebook, gays were bemoaning the imminent disappearance of the place that they have had countless Coronas/lattes/hummous platters. Not to mention the awkward first dates, random snogs, and times they spent looking at G3 while quietly hoping to be picked up.

We ran down there this evening to see what was going on, and though the despondent-looking staff didn’t want to go on record before boss Maria puts out a press release tomorrow, we asked about some stuff and understand that yes, it is a lease problem that is pushing the cafe out of its home for 25 years. It has come up for renegotiaton and it’s not gone their way.

Apparently the whole area is getting redeveloped as part of the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail programme (I hope this fucking train station is good after all this) and even if the lease came good, the future of the whole area is uncertain.

They may move somewhere else, but as yet have no plans.

But SADFACE – this was one of the few dedicated gay cafes in London. There’s the Dalston Superstore, and some other gayish places out east – that one in Brick Lane staffed by grumpy but kind of hot lesbians. But they are far out, not First Out and DSS aside, none that I can think of are explicitly gay.

Kind of a confusing write-up. The headline reels us in by identifying First Out a "lesbian café", then the text consistently refers to it as a "gay" place. So what gives?

The obituary at Diva Magazine characterizes it as a "gay venue", but one that was "popular" with "gay and bisexual women"-- if that's of any help:

One of central London's longest-standing gay venues has announced that it will close at the end of this month, DIVA can report.

First Out Cafe Bar, which is located on St. Giles High Street behind the famous Centre Point building, will continue to operate until the end of October when it will close its doors for the final time.

According to sources,
changes to the lease and rent increase are to blame for the closure, which will see the popular eatery and bar close after twenty-five years of service.

We confirmed the closure with staff at the venue - but they were unable to provide a quote.

Popular with gay and bisexual women, First Out was regularly featured in's Readers' Awards for Best Venue, but - in recent years - endured considerable disruption as a result of the Crossrail development in the surrounding area.

Former employees include broadcaster, writer and entertainer Amy Lame.

But then there's the death notice at The Guardian, which barely mentions women or lesbians, except in a rather perfunctory and patronizing way (i.e. the "1970s lesbian-stereotype feel" crap). In fact, the article is pretty much devoted to the gay guys and straight dudes (i.e. the "very heterosexual, hairy bikers") who went there:

 The last days of a legendary gay venue
The central London cafe First Out is to close its doors after 25 years in business


First Out          

The First Out Cafe Bar is closing after 25 years. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

London's lesbian and gay community is preparing for a bereavement. The First Out cafe, situated off Tottenham Court Road, is closing at the end of this month after 25 years in business. I had my first date there with my partner back in 1987, and have witnessed multiple cop-offs, breakups and full-blown gay dramas on its premises.

First Out joins the other casualties of the Crossrail development, the east-west rail link due to open in 2017, such as the famous Astoria Theatre. The cafe's owners say they are shutting up shop having failed to satisfactorily renegotiate the lease as the area undergoes redevelopment.

The venue was the first ever gay daytime venue, offering an alternative to the clubbing scene. "No one would immediately size you up when you walked in the door, so gay men would drop in without having to be done up in our finery," says Tony, a long-term regular. I often call in for a drink with friends, but avoid the food, it being a bit knit- your-own-organic-tofu-salad for me. The leaflets scattered around the place advertising flat shares in Hackney and classes on self-insemination can give it a 1970s lesbian-stereotype feel, but its warmth is palpable.

"This is home for so many people, including staff," says manager Jo Moores. "Our customers appreciate that this is not part of the gay meat market. It is much more of a friendly hangout, and everyone is welcome." There is plenty of romance and the odd bit of snogging throughout the basement bar and upstairs cafe, but you are as likely to see lone customers with their laptops, relaxing after a workout at the gym, and couples dropping in after a day's shopping.

Many straight folk also consider it their local. A group from a nearby church meets there weekly, and I recall a couple of very heterosexual, hairy bikers dropping in a few years back to taste the fruit smoothies. It is hard to imagine what could replace it.

Just goes to show how hard it is to find "dedicated" lesbian space of any type, even the kind that is "lost."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Buick Cafe

4th and Washington (1946)

The Buick Café

Location: 1239 Southwest Washington, Portland, Oregon, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s, 1950s

We're back in the northwestern U.S. for another posting from the 1999 Gay Portland Walking Tour:

The Buick Café, 1239 S.W. Washington.  In police reports of the Women’s Protective Division dating from 1949, this little restaurant on the northeast corner of 13th and Washington,  since demolished, was mentioned as the hangout for a group of lesbians who congregated at the Music Hall nightclub at Tenth and Stark.  The police department noted that “these women are reported to attempt their pick-up at the Music Hall and in case of failure before the Music Hall closes, they then retire to the Buick and look for other prospects.”  The report added that “these women were recently ousted from San Francisco for their actions and are, apparently, confirmed lesbians.”  The only mention of the Buick in the Oregonian is a June 4, 1959 ad seeking a waitress (p. 27).

Kind of a reminder that well-behaved women seldom make history. I don't know if we would have any evidence of this place at all if it weren't for police reports.

According to the Walking Tour, the Music Hall was a mixed gay place (though, not too surprisingly, more oriented towards the men):

The Music Hall, a.k.a Schneiderman’s Music Hall, 413½ S.W. Tenth.  One of the highlights of Portland’s gay and lesbian history is a visit to this wonderful building where, in the late 1940s, following World War II, many of the city’s gay men and lesbians came for entertainment and socializing.  Opened by Paul Schneiderman in 1937, the nightclub took its name from the tradition of the old English musical hall.  Its first mention in the Oregonian is in an article stating it was denied a liquor license, Mar. 13, 1937, p. 12.  Early on, it featured vaudeville-type entertainment as well as big name acts.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tess's Cafe Internationale

8711 Sunset Boulevard today (insert is female
impersonator Rae Bourbon)
Tess's Café Internationale

Location: 8711 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, USA

Opened: 1936

Closed: 1942

Martin Turnbull is brief and to the point:

Tess’s Café Internationale – Lesbian nightclub on Sunset Boulevard (60/47 & 87)

Fortunately, there is a more detailed description (somewhat modified and edited here) in Lillian Faderman's Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians.

Columbia record by
Miss Jimmie Reynard
In Los Angeles before World War II there were only a few places that catered primarily to lesbians, and they were very different from many bars that emerged in the years after the war. The prewar bars were usually in the tradition of the upscale nightclub, and they promoted an exotic glamour, much like the lesbian bars of Weimar Berlin.

Miss Jimmy Reynard
Tess's (called in its various iterations Tess's Continental and Tess's Café International) was owned by Tess--a woman who dressed in basic black, pearls, and a great deal of makeup--and her partner Sylvia--who looked like Radcliffe Hall and always carried around a long cigarette holder. Tess's featured male impersonators such as Tommy Williams and Jimmy Renard, tall broad-shouldered women singers who wore tuxes and bow ties and had tenor voices. Gay women who frequented Tess's remember still Jimmy Renard's rendition of "Tonight We Love" and the evening that Tommy Williams brought Marlene Dietrich to Tess's and sang to her.
Miss Tommy Williams

Unlike nightclubs that had a large gay male clientele and featured female impersonators, Tess's suffered neither raids nor closings by the police because the phenomenon of the lesbian was not yet taken very seriously in 1930s Los Angeles.

According to Playground of the Stars, Tess's was one of about 30 Los Angeles area bars and nightclubs that was made off-limits to sailors by the U.S. Navy. This was in June 1942. Once again (in a somewhat modified and edited account) is what they say about it:

“These taverns and bars are not safe or proper places for servicemen to patronize,” a Naval commander told the Los Angeles Times. “Firm handling is necessary to eliminate that undesirable fringe of the industry.” The precise nature of the unsafe and improper activities going on in these night spots was left unstated — but it must have been pretty bad if the Navy felt the need to protect sailors from it, especially since the Navy was sending these same men off to risk their lives in the Midway, Guadalcanal and other death traps in the Pacific.

Miss Jimmy Reynard at
Mona's Club 440 in San Francisco
And here's a little more about Tess's itself:

Café Internationale was owned and operated by Elmer and Tess Wheeler and catered to women. As the 1940 guidebook, “How to Sin in Hollywood” put it:

When Your Urge’s Mauve, [go to] the Café International on Sunset Boulevard. The location offered supper, drinks, and the ability to watch boy-girls who necked and sulked and little girl customers who… look like boys.

Marlene Dietrich

Café Internationale offered cross-dressing performers, but these singers were women dressed in male drag — two who were quite well-known then were billed as Tommy Williams and Jimmy Renard.

As a result of the Navy ban, state authorities revoked the liquor licenses for Café Internationale.  Elmer Wheeler sued in 1942 to have the license reinstated, but he died that December and the club closed for good. His widow Tess opened another club later and became a fixture, along with her partner Sylvia Reiff in the burgeoning Los Angeles lesbian scene after the war.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Canyon Club

Topanga Canyon (1950s)
Canyon Club

Location: Topanga Canyon between Malibu and Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California, USA

Opened/Closed: 1940s -1960s

From Remembering LA’s Earliest Lesbian Bars:

Canyon Club – Located in Topanga Canyon between Malibu and Pacific Palisades, this was a private membership club complete with a swimming pool that attracted “women who looked like women” (which today would be known as “lipstick lesbians”). Drawing a more professional crowd who couldn’t risk being arrested in a police raid, women gladly paid the $20 yearly membership fee. If the police did drive up, management would flash the lights, indicating women dancing with women should trade partners with the men dancing with men. Same-sex dancing was illegal in Los Angeles County until the 1970s.

But if you look at other sources, it not necessarily clear that the Canyon Club was exclusively (or even predominantly) lesbian. From an  LA Gay History site:

Canyon Club

Located in Los Angeles' Topanga Canyon area, mixed gay and lesbian club (c.1940's-50-s) who, if they saw the Vice Squad pulling up, would flash the lights which was the signal to swap dance partners to someone of the opposite sex.

Martin Turnbull says something similar:

Canyon Club – in Topanga Canyon, mixed gay and lesbian club (1940s? 1950s?) who, if they saw the Vice Squad pulling up, would flash the lights which was the signal to swap dance partners to someone of the opposite sex. (60/83)

Here is some of one gay man's recollection of the Canyon Club:

Los Angeles, when I moved there in 1968, was a vastly different city for gays and lesbians. We had our own bars and restaurants, but they were subject to frequent, random, and unprovoked harassment under the cold, beady eyes of our rabidly homophobic police chief. The routine (and often mass) arrest of gays for various trumped up charges--most often "lewd and lascivious conduct" was a lucrative source of income for the city and did not end until a gay man was beaten to death by the police in a routine bar raid.

One of the things gays were forbidden to do was to touch while dancing. I don't mean "grope" or "fondle"...I mean touch. We were allowed to disco (only in our own bars, of course), but slow dancing, where we actually held our partner, would result in arrest. As a result I and several of my friends joined the Canyon Club...a members-only club located 15 or so miles from my home, high up in a remote and rugged canyon, and reached only by a narrow, winding road. That more people were not killed coming down from the club after Last Call was a miracle.

The club was owned by a former L.A. policeman confined to a wheelchair for some reason, who disliked gays but overlooked his prejudice because of the money he made from us. It was a large, sprawling place with a couple of bar areas, a huge dance floor, and a swimming pool open only during the day on weekends. You entered the club through a small vestibule, where you showed your membership at the desk, and were then buzzed through a locked door into the club itself.

As part of the police department's equal-opportunity discrimination policy, not even the Canyon Club was safe from occasional harassment, but because the owner was an ex-cop, it was more for show than anything else. Whenever the police would arrive, the person at the reception desk would press a button which flashed a red light throughout the interior of the club. Immediately, dancing gay and lesbian couples would switch partners with their opposite-sex counterparts, and by the time the police meandered through the door to look around, all they saw was men dancing with women. I somehow suspect they were not fooled, but they had done their duty in letting the faggots and dykes know who had the power. 'Ya gotta let those queers and perverts know who's boss, 'ya know.

But the Canyon Club, whatever its inconveniences, was a safe place for us to go, and to be able to actually touch one another while dancing. I am a lousy dancer, and always avoid it whenever possible, but I would try it at the Canyon Club, especially with my friend Larry Couch, who always let me lead. I  always had a crush on Larry, but because his partner, Arnold, was also my close friend, holding him while dancing was about as close as I could hope to get.

Of course Lillian Faderman mentions the Canyon Club in her work. In Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, a number of her narrators mention the "flashing red-light signal."

However, one woman who went often to the Canyon Club says, "The guy who owned it was a cop, and the police never showed up"; she speculates, "Maybe he flashed the lights to add atmosphere. Maybe it was just a game."

But Jinx Beers in Memoirs of an Old Dyke doesn't recall that Canyon Club was much of a lesbian place at all:

Then came the Canyon Club located up in the hills off Topanga Canyon. I never actually attended the club myself, but understand it was mostly for the boys with one night a week for women-only.

So take your pick: lesbian, mixed, or gay men. Without a time machine, it's hard to tell....

Monday, March 17, 2014



Location: 1431 Northeast Broadway, Portland, Oregon, USA

Opened: October 1983

Closed: January 1985

I first place I learned about Judy's was in the 1999 Portland Gay History Walking Tour:

Judy’s, 1431 N.E. Broadway.  Women’s bar, October 1983 to January 1985.

And that was the last I learned about it too. I suspect there is more information buried at the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN), but I don't have ready access.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Roy's Comfort Zone

Roy's Comfort Zone (2007)
Roy's Comfort Zone

Location: 1412 West Huntington Park Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opened: At least as early as 2005

Closed: Till at least 2012

If you go by Clubfly, Roy's Comfort Zone was a clearly a lesbian place, no doubt about it--though now out of business:

Roy’s Comfort Zone Roy’s Comfort Zone Philadelphia (CLOSED)
1412 W Hunting Park Ave
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140 
Type: Lesbian Bar
In a nutshell: Friday night watering hole for the ladies. The music is fair for the average gal just needing a drink to end a hectic week. Warning - parking is on the street, and it is on the north side...

Just one problem. There are not a lot of formal reviews that implicitly call this a lesbian place. Or even a gay place necessarily.

For instance, here's what Clubplanet has to say:

Roy's Comfort Zone is the type of place you start off your night. The drinks are cheap and strong but the crowd isn’t the type to get the party started. Grab a quick drink here and then head out to the real party. 

This place has/had such a low profile, that there are no reviews at yelp. Just mention of its existence.

Ah. Here's a clue. It was apparently still in existence during Pride Week 2012. And it appeared to cater to Black "sexy females":

Philly Black Pride Party

Friday Apr 27, 2012 8:00PM-01:00AM in Philadelphia   

Its that time of year PHILLY PRIDE, Sweeties is setting if off with old & new skool music, putting it down again. If you missed last years party, then you dont want to miss this years, if you want to see some of the hottest, sexiest females from Delaware, D.C., New York, and Atlanta then Phillys Black Pride is the place to be Roys Comfort Zone.
Oh. And then there's this news story. Not good.
Police are on the lookout for a man who opened fire in Hunting Park.  Investigators say the 38-year-old victim was hit in the leg at about 1 a.m. while he played video games inside Roy's Comfort Zone on the 1400 block of West Hunting Park Avenue.
The man who fired the gun then ran out of the bar and police are looking for him.

There's no word on any motive in the shooting.

Pay dirt. We finally locate some customer reviews at yahoo local from what appear to be Black lesbians. Here's what they say:
JewelzOhSoSexii 08/09/05:
buttercup 01/25/06:
It was ok in there. I went there for the first time last fri and it was alright. It was very hot in there and not enough space but there were definitely alot of sexy ladies in the spot. Not to mention the music was aight!!!!
Mssweet31 04/30/06: 
Yes I finally made and I had a ball!!!!!!!!!!! The music was good and the people were nice!!!! It was a good atmosphere and I definately will be goin again!
TreasureT 01/13/12:
Wow I hear that something new is coming, the reopening of ROY'S COMFORT ZONE. P&C Productions wll be presentng a place for you to party again on every first[1st] and third[3rd] Friday of every month catering to the LGBT community. Starting Feb. 3, 2012 9pm to 2am. I hear from 9 to 10 its free but $10 to get in SO I SAY GET YOUR PARTY ON, you know get the party started some place for the family to party again:]
A lesser trafficked review site called gayscom also notes that Roy's is "Mostly Women."

We also hear that the food was good solid down-home cooking (no vegan quinoa sliders!). From foursquare:

 Sakinah T.· December 29, 2011

Turkey wings mac and yams 10$ best platter


As far as I can tell, no business has replaced Roy's at this location. So is it still in operation? Given the lack of any reviews since 2012 and the clubfly notation, I'm going to assume not. If I'm wrong, y'all let me know.

Given the rarity of Black lesbian space, it was a real treat to stumble upon this one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Usual Neighborhood Pub

The Usual Neighborhood Pub

Location: 5519 Allen Street, Houston, Texas, USA

Opened: 2008

Closed: 2014

The latest victim in the Great Lesbian Bar Die-Off. From culturemap Houston:

Popular lesbian bar closes, but owners vow to reopen in new location

The Usual bar in Houston with crowd in patio


Trying to find a lesbian bar in Houston seems at times like going on the quest for the holy grail. Chances shut down in late 2010 when owner Nick Vastakis decided to move out of bar management and into property development, and recently The Usual Neighborhood Pub has joined the list. Owners of the bar, located near T.C. Jester and the Katy Freeway, announced its fate on its Facebook page:
We are closing The Usual for good at this location but we are on the hunt for our new spot! We planned on remodeling but our landlord refused to pay for all the roofing and electrical needs (as most of you know was much needed) … we unfortunately had to make the decision to move…we will be absent for a short while but will return soon and can't wait to see all of you! We can't thank everyone enough for being apart of this great bar, all of you have made it what it is and that's something to remember!…keep you posted!”
Last week, regulars gathered with current management and past employees to pay tribute to the bar as it closed. Owners could not be reached for comment.

The Houston Press named the bar to its list of Top 10 Gay Bars, Clubs & Icehouses last summer, citing a great selection of microbrews and Internet jukebox, air hockey, a large patio with picnic benches and dog-friendly environs, and describing the atmosphere as "a little like Cheers with better decor and a better beer selection."

For now, it looks like the only dedicated lesbian bar left is the newly renovated Pearl Bar. Other options include Guava Lamp and JR’s Bar and Grill, which draw a gay clientele but are lesbian-friendly, and newcomer Barbarella, an alternative bar that draws a gay-and-lesbian-friendly crowd.

So what else can we add to the obituary? Well, it was once awarded the Best Lesbian Bar award:

Best Lesbian Bar Houston 2012 - The Usual - CLOSED
The Usual
Since the demise of Lower Westheimer mainstay Chances, the Usual has been Houston's only lesbian bar, so luckily it's a good one. Not exclusively for ladies who love ladies, the Usual sports an inviting front porch with a sweet view of some nearby train tracks, great deals on wine, and frequent raucous karaoke nights. After an evening so close and yet so far from the Usual, in the vast valet-bedeviled douchatoria of the Washington Avenue strip, the Usual's laid-back neighborhood vibe will restore your faith in the human race.
Dancers at The Usual (December 2013)

Here's the piece on The Usual from the Top 10 Gay Bars piece cited above. Notice that there is no mention of this being a lesbian space:

The Usual patrons (December 2013)

Air hockey? Check. Picnic benches? Check. Dog-friendly? Check and double-check. The Usual is a comfortable place for everyone to hang out, no matter what your orientation, a little like Cheers with better decor and a better beer selection. It's casual, gay-friendly, and the Internet jukebox provides endless possibilities. In short, we could live there, especially with the selection of microbrews.

Interesting that My Gay Houston doesn't even mention that this is a lesbian bar either:

After stints operating as a massage parlor, a questionable spa biz and a gambling club, the nondescript, brown building right off of Washington, near TC Jester, was transformed several years ago into a casual, neighborhood bar dubbed The Usual. Set in the Heights, The Usual provides an eclectic, post-college clientele with a casual, no-frills dive to kick back in, listen to music and enjoy a solid beer selection.
Bartender at The Usual (December 2013)

Inside, the interior is small and cozy, with five smaller, sectioned off rooms perfect for lounging and playing a round of darts. There’s also a small stage nearby that plays host to weekly karaoke night performances and a dog-friendly patio space outside with picnic table seating.

While you’re there, try out one of The Usual’s more than 60 types of beer, including hard-to-find varieties and locally-produced craft brews like Southern Star Bombshell Blonde and Saint Arnold’s Elissa IPA.

And then there is this from the Houston Press. The Usual, we are informed, isn't exactly "gay." But it is populated by a fair number of "women who prefer the company of other women":

When you hear that whistle blowin', no need to hang your head and cry, just plug your ears for a second before getting back to drinking on the cheap. The Usual, a neighborhood newcomer next to the railroad track that runs parallel to Washington Avenue, is not a gay bar per se, and it's certainly not a sleazy pick-up spot. It is a welcoming sort of establishment, though, and a good portion of the clientele is comprised of women who prefer the company of other women. The beer-garden tables out front are a great place to drink discounted beer and well drinks during happy hour.

Oh, but this is classic. We haven't come across a naïve-straight-guy-accidentally-stumbles-into-a-lesbian-bar story in a while, and this one is just a perfect example of the genre.

There are some 28 customer reviews at yelp, and they run the gamut. Some are positive, some are not. Some claim the place is friendly to everyone, some say the place is anti-male. Too many to really sample here, but they are always a hoot to scroll through.