Before Covid-19 ravaged the hospitality industry, queer and lesbian bars were already facing dwindling numbers nationwide. With just 15 such spaces open nationwide today, campaigns such as the Lesbian Bar Project aim to keep these community spaces open and thriving in a post-Covid landscape and to support community members as the nation continues to navigate the pandemic.
One such bar is D.C.’s own A League of Her Own (ALOHO) in Adams Morgan. The bar is listed on the site’s directory as one of the 15 preserving the legacy of queer and lesbian bars – and is the only one in the D.C. area. Since the loss of the country’s longest running lesbian bar, the District’s Phase One, it’s filled a void for the city’s lesbian and queer community to connect and have fun in a safe and affirming space since it opened in 2018.
“When [Phase One] closed, that really got D.C. in particular thinking about our spaces,” says ALOHO’s general manager Jo McDaniel. “The Lesbian Bar Project was started early in quarantine because of this pandemic and the need to stay home has really slowed people down, so we’re paying attention to issues that maybe we weren’t when we were busy. We live in an incredibly individualistic society, so that’s just been something we were aware of because we’d lost Phase One, which we sort of always had and maybe took for granted. I don’t think that’s uncommon throughout the country.”
Through the Lesbian Bar Project and the heightened virtual connection borne from the pandemic, McDaniel found camaraderie through fellow bar staff and owners throughout the country. She notes some “pretty awesome” friendships with proprietors Lisa Cannistraci, owner of Henrietta Hudson in New York City, and Julie Mabry, owner of Pearl Bar in Houston, Texas. Through communicating with others, McDaniel has found not only mutual support but new perspectives on how lesbian and queer bar owners are faring as of late.
“It’s been an interesting thing to learn about what challenges other spaces and other areas face, and how they compare to what we have here in D.C. The thing that’s great about social media and doing things virtually is that you get to connect across distance. It really helps to put things in perspective because you can live in an echo chamber.”
As another way to keep the community connected and help ALOHO weather the ongoing pandemic, they’re hosting three now sold-out queer and lesbian virtual speed dating events with DC Fray. The three events – taking place January 13, January 27 and February 10 – are a great way to meet new people and shake off those winter blues by forging new potential relationships and even friendships.
“Another thing that’s come out of quarantine is that people are thinking outside the box, because we have to find new ways to connect. D.C. is a pretty lonely city. It’s a transient city and most people are not from here, and they’re all people coming in and out so constantly. The percentage of people we know who come into ALOHO that come in by themselves is high, and they come in to connect.”
In addition to being able to safely meet new people, the added element of chatting virtually as opposed to in real life takes some of the pressure off of a pre-Covid, face-to-face speed dating event.
“There’s something a little less scary about doing a speed dating event virtually,” McDaniel says. “People are getting so comfortable with Zoom and that’s what we’ve been using for communication, so it feels a little less forced. Why not have some fun and potentially meet someone you click with? Even if it doesn’t turn romantic, at least you’ve connected with another human. I truly believe we are put on this planet to connect with each other.”
The funds raised from the three events – $1,200 total – will go directly to ALOHO to ensure they can continue to welcome the lesbian and queer community through their doors for years to come. And no matter how you identify – lesbian, queer, pan, bi, trans, non-binary or whatever fits you – McDaniel wants you to know you have a place at ALOHO.
“The only time you will ever see ALOHO called a lesbian bar is when I haven’t had any say in how it’s presented. I put lesbian/queer, and generally when given the opportunity, I broaden that to say that queer [serves] as an umbrella term for everyone on our spectrum, which includes bisexual people, trans people, non binary people – particularly those communities that are wildly underrepresented. That delineation is important because you have to find a way to get your message and your mission out. We’re as inclusive as possible, particularly for people who just don’t have anywhere else. All we want to do is make people comfortable and have a good time.”
A League of Her Own: 2319 18th St. NW, DC; www.alohodc.com
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