If You’re Gay and in DC on Friday, You Should Also Be At Phase 1

Carmen’s Team Pick:

If you live in Washington, DC and you’re 21+ I’ve probably seen you Jello wrestling your girlfriend at Phase 1 downtown. I may have been grinning. Jello wrestling is my favorite sport.

It didn’t take much to get me to Phase 1 for the first time: “oldest lesbian bar in the United States” was a persuasive argument:

Since 1970 [Phase 1 has] had our doors at 525 8th St. SE, Washington D.C.open to women. We are the oldest continually operating lesbian bar in the country. At Phase 1 we have something for everyone whether you want to come and dance the night away to the latest hip-hop, see a drag king show, listen to queer indie/punk, see some Jello wrestling, or just shoot pool, we have your fix.

I put on my lace-up boots and marched in as a mere 21-and-10-days-old person would and ordered a Dirty Shirley, and then when I turned around there were a couple of lesbos wrestling while covered entirely in gelatin in a pool while making out, all the while risking impending toplessness.

So I went back, and back, and back. Once for karaoke, when I got too drunk and forgot my censor and totally sang Cher’s “Life After Love.” Once for Jello wrestling. Once more to drink. Once more for Jello wrestling.

Did I mention the Jello wrestling?

photo from markmalijanphotography.com

Anyway, the only thing better than one Phase 1 is two Phase 1’s, and it’s finally here. Phase 1 Dupont is opening this Friday with a kickoff for the ages – a party described on Facebook as having “the hottest girls, the hottest jams, the hottest DJ’s and a plethora of events to keep you coming back for more.”  (And don’t fret — the original Phase 1, in Eastern Market, will also remain open.)

The event, a “lesbian playground” of sorts lasting through Saturday night, begins at 9 PM Friday, February 10. The bar is strictly 21+ and will offer $3 Absolute and Red Bull and $6 Absolut Red Bull Cocktails (see what they did there) all weekend — after your $10 cover.

This is a cause for celebration – and platform pumps with denim, heavy drinking in the company of coupled lesbians / old bike dykes / my gay boyfriends, and maybe even having fun.

The new Phase 1 in Dupont Circle stands where the gay club Apex stood until it reached an end in June.  For fans of Apex, which was full of drag queens / slender gay men / mirrors, this is going to be quite a change. The new Phase 1 is going to be “similar” to its predecessor, which I remember as full of pool tables, PBR, an area for dancing, karaoke, and — you know it — Jello wrestling. (Since this new location is on the only bus line serving my neighborhood, I am banking on that last part.)

This can only mean one thing: twice the fun and twice the PhaseFest come next year. Oh, and twice the ladies, too.

The best part, though, is that the male-dominated gay scene in Dupont, one of the biggest and most well-known gay hotspots in DC, will finally have a place for the girl-on-girl, too (ironically, thanks to a gay dude):

Allen Carroll, the gay man who owns Phase 1 as well as Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, will convert the space at 1415 22nd Street NW into a lesbian nightclub. ”I think it’s time for [women] to have their own club in Dupont,” Carroll told Metro Weekly in an exclusive interview. […]

Carroll is convinced there’s enough of a demand for two Phases — and the man certainly has some expertise in lesbian nightlife.

”I’ve always worked with women,” says Carroll, who opened Phase 1 in 1970 with his late partner Chris Jansen. Carroll even worked at the lesbian bar, Jo-Anna’s, which predated Phase 1 in Southeast’s Barracks Row neighborhood. 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].”

So you’re totally coming, right? See you there. Get there early.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. This makes me so happy! It always aggravated me that the Dupont “gayborhood” was entirely devoted to male venues. Apex was a great space and Phase 1 in Dupont sounds promising. Definitely checking it out next time I’m in DC!

  2. I’ve spent the past three years of my life moping about Phase 1, Lace, and the 21+ industrial complex. Now, finally, I will be of age to buy an overpriced whiskey sour and be the only person tryna dougie on the dance floor. WATCH OUT, DC

  3. Oh man.. I remember Phase 1.. I lived with my ex in Silver Spring at the time. I don’t know if it’s because we went on an “off” weekend, but I did not like Phase 1 at all. I’m excited to hear that they’re opening in a more appropriate area. Hopefully there’s more space, and hopefully they’ll turn up the sexy a bit. The original felt too awkward sports-bar-y.

    Speaking of which. Same thing frustrates me with T’s Bar and Restaurant in Chicago shunned out all the way in Uptown away from Boystown. They need a better lesbian bar in that area as well…

  4. Can I get into this if I’m under 21 and just not drink, or can I not go at all? The occasional Friday night at Town Danceboutique doesn’t quit seem to cut it, but all the gay girl places/events are 21+!

  5. FUCK the weekend i decide to go visit my alma mater i not only miss a chocolate fountain in the lobby of the building where i work but this as well?! NOT COOL.

  6. Hm; I’m confused about how the two will stay open – are there enough lesbians in DC for that? Are they catering to different crowds? The former Apex location probably has pricey rent, too.

    I agree that the original Phase 1 was awkward…dance floor was too small…jams were not good, not good at all (don’t lesbians love all kinds of cool female vocalists, electronic music, indie music, etc…why do we have to listen to what sounds like 99.5 all the time?). Jello wrestling during Pride was insane, though.

    For the oldest lesbian bar it didn’t have the “culture” that it could have…maybe with more space to work with, this new Phase 1 will be better…but I’m having a hard time envisioning it?

    Needless to say, I’ll be there anyway :P

    • I’m also wondering whether the new venue will take away business from the Eastern Market bar or if it will be geared towards the Dupont/red line crowd and be a strict dance club venue (a la Town) and let the other location be the dive-y billiards/bar scene.

      If the original Phase 1 ends up losing business I propose turning it into a full-time Jello wrestling arena…

    • the owner thinks they can co-exist peacefully. i feel like dc has slowly become the most lesbo-filled place ever in life so i think he is right

      • Ah-greed. I know you’ve probably been to BARE at Cobalt — who knew so many lesbians were here?!? AND otro ejemplo: The last girls night at apex I *tried* to get into (during pride last summer) had me waiting in a line of girls that was about 2 hours long :P

        • ah, dc. that feeling when you go to she:rex and you think “what the hell where have i even BEEN?”

  7. a) carmen, i saw that text i know you call me this
    c) also remember when they called katrina’s name up but really it was cause they found her driver’s license on the floor?
    d) rip summer 2k11

  8. Also look for the girl with the camera taking pictures for Autostraddle (ie, me). We should organize some kind of pregame situation.

  9. Hmmmm. I am 21….

    It IS my last night in DC…

    I DO like jello….

    I think I know how my Friday night is going to go.

  10. aw man. i was in dc last friday and am not going back for two weeks. stupid life/school getting in the way of having fun.

  11. Just when I was settled on not going to grad school in DC, more fun things pop up there. Geez, I really don’t want to be stuck in North Carolina or Michigan for 3 yrs when all the lesbians are having fun in DC.

    Frackin’ jello wrestling…you had me at “risking impending toplessness.”

    • Don’t worry: the lesbians in Chapel Hill/Durham/Charlotte/Boone/Asheville and Ann Arbor are all having plenty of fun in their respective burgs AND have better women’s soccer teams. I love DC, but you will have plenty of (cheaper) fun-time opportunities no matter which place you have chosen.

  12. Hold on people, I think I’m having a flashback. I used to go to Phase 1 back in the late 80’s when I went to school in College Park and then when I lived in D.C. I had almost completely forgotten about it, it was the first place a woman asked me to dance. They didn’t have jello wrassin’ at that time though, at least not to my knowledge. I’d bet that none of the other bars I remember from that time are still around, I can only remember a couple, Traxx was in southeast D.C. and I don’t recall where The Hung Jury was located.

    The only thing I remember from Dupont Circle was a lesbian bookstore called “Lambda Rising” and we used to pick up copies of The Blade there. Oh, and it was ground zero for gatherings during the March on Washington rallies when I returned to the city for those.

  13. Okay, I don’t know why I’m just now registering for this site (love it), but I finally did because of this article. Haha, I think I am a little too excited about Phase Dupont. I am surprised by those that don’t like Phase 1. Sure, there are some nights that are a miss, but I usually have a good time. It is a little small, and the music is kind of blah. Anyway, see everyone Friday at the new Phase!

  14. I’m having a lot of feelings right now. Someone told me this news last night and I refused to believe it. I’ve worked a block from their new place for over five years and was always a little bummed out by the crowd at Apex. I’m excited to have a place for the ladies in Dupont Circle and I’m totally taking first cut from work Friday night and checking it out.

  15. SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS!!!! FINALLY ANOTHER GIRLS SPOT. Needed, so so needed. Thank you for posting Carmen!

  16. omg you guys, this is seriously going to be So Great. Although possibly so crowded I get annoyed and go to She.Rex instead? I hate it when there are so many people around that dancing is reduced to wiggling awkwardly in place for fear of giving the hot girl you’ve been eyeing an elbow in her face.

    I am quite, quite sure there will be enough queer ladies to keep both Phases in business. We can hopefully now cut the instances of “running into your ex at the gay girl bar” in half!

  17. Yaaaaay I hated switching off the red line to go to Phase :)

    I DO wish dc had a lesbian coffeeshop though, that would be more my scene

  18. There were so many lesbians here last night! It was AMAZING. And I live only 2 stops up so it was super convenient to metro over. Me and my girlfriend and another couple got there at about 10:50 and had to wait about 30 minutes to get in because it was so packed. But once we got in it was so much fun. My girl and I are not that tapped in to the lesbian network but we still saw 5 people that we knew even in the jam-packed crowd so I guess everyone and their moms were there. We definitely want to go back sometime soon.

  19. Of course, I see this today. I’m excited about visiting the new place. I still like the old one too. My partner and I went there on our first date (it was sort of spur of the moment, we were having dinner at the Banana) so we have fond memories of it. I’d love to try the new one on an AS night (if you don’t mind the old ladies hanging with you).

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