Even before the pandemic, America's lesbian bars were starting to vanish. Blame gentrification, or Netflix and chill and dating apps. But the pandemic has been the nail in the coffin of many brick-and-mortar establishments across the country. Stay at home orders, mask mandates, and shifting guidance on the virus have put public-facing businesses such as bars in impossible situations, logistically and financially.
But some help is at hand. The Lesbian Bar Project has been raising money to subsidize and save these bars — just 21 of them, having dwindled from the 200 lesbian bars in the heyday of lesbian chic, the 1980s and '90s. Even legendary, seemingly bulletproof establishments like Henrietta's in New York — which survived 9/11 — are struggling.
In Phoenix, Boycott Bar, on 7th Avenue in the Melrose District, is the only Arizona bar included in the Lesbian Bar Project. Boycott owner Audrey Corley told The Arizona Republic that The Lesbian Bar Project had donated about $7,000 to the bar, a crucial boost. "If they raise $500 or $5,000, I am just so grateful they chose us," she said.
Now, the issue has received even wider attention with dating app Hinge, popular with a new generation of queer women, supporting the project.
Hinge announced in a press release that they are offering "stimulus payments" for the 21 lesbian bars involved with the project, including Boycott.
Boycott Bar opened 17 years ago and found a forever home in the Melrose District in March 2018. Like many lesbian bars it offers themed nights such as The L Word watch parties, karaoke, and guest DJs.
“Boycott is a place in our community where everyone is welcome, a place to celebrate who we are; to live, love and be our true selves," Corley states on The Lesbian Bar Project's website.
“The bars that comprise The Lesbian Bar Project are not only a safe space, but an essential part of LGBTQIA+ culture,” Justin McLeod, Founder and CEO of Hinge said. “Our hope is that this support will help these sacred spaces to stay open through this summer and beyond.”
Ironic that a dating app — which in many ways supplants the function of a bar as potential place to meet a new partner — has come to the rescue. But Hinge is also looking beyond short term altruism and running an ad campaign, starting Aug. 8, to educate app users about the importance of LGBTQ-focused bars in the dating ecosystem. Why not take the next step IRL and meet your right swipe at one of the 21 endangered lesbian bars?
But with the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading in many U.S. states, including Arizona, bar patrons are justifiably still gun shy about returning to their favorite venues. If you venture out, make sure you're vaccinated and masked.
Boycott is open for business, hosting karaoke on Thursday and Sunday nights, Whiskey Wednesdays and an L Word viewing party on Sunday Aug. 8. The bar's website says masks are required and all staff wear masks.
To donate to Boycott Venmo @BoycottBoss.