Pop-Up Gay Bar Is Coming To A Bar Near You

feature image via Shutterstock

Queer takeovers are back, y’all. This month, software developer Brian McConnell, who was also part of the team behind Guerrilla Queer Bar, launched Pop-Up Gay Bar, a location-based list service that puts queer people in touch with each other to arrange meet ups in local, traditionally not-queer spaces. For those living in cities that have a “gayborhood,” it’s a chance to get away from the usual LGBT venues without losing the community. The first Pop-Up Gay Bar event took place last month in the Bay Area, led by a drag trio of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. A group of about thirty boarded the ferry to Oakland (or, as one attendee called the crossing, “Fairies on the ferry”) to hit a few bars and eat some chicken and waffles.

via SFGate, by Michael Short, The Chronicle

The setup is intentionally modeled after Guerrilla Queer Bar, which was launched in early 2000. Organized around email groups, Guerrilla Queer Bar was active in cities across America, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. In San Francisco, Guerrilla Queer Bar events included wild adventures such as a Fulsom Street Fair Takeover, where the group turned a hotel bar into a leather bar for the night.

Though it died out in the late 2000s, its influence remains in queer takeover groups such as The Welcoming Committee, which started in Boston and now organizes events in Washington, DC and Philadelphia, too, and Pop-Up Queer Dance Party in Vermont. Demographics at these takeovers vary. The original Guerrilla Queer Bar in Boston was mostly attended by gay men, which prompted the opening of GirlSpot Bar as a space for women (now handled by The Welcoming Committee’s Flannel Takeover Company). Pop-Up Queer Dance Party is attended by “a crowd of mixed-gender identities.” A similar group in Rochester called Ambush Rochester is mostly for queer women. Pop-Up Gay Bar’s inaugural event was attended by gay men, but future events don’t have to be.

While Guerrilla Queer Bar was confined to larger cities, McConnell intends the Pop-Up Gay Bar to be more accessible. “Pop-ups could catch on in small towns that don’t have full-time gay bars,” he said. In my rural hometown, a gay bar has never lasted and currently no gay bar exists. We don’t have any traveling queer events, but we do have a drag show once a month in a tiny trailer-sized dive bar that isn’t allowed to serve liquor (but you can bring your own). The bar isn’t full on most nights, but on that one night of the drag show, it’s jam-packed with LGBT folks and allies from the whole county. I definitely think we could do with a Pop-Up Gay Bar and branch out on non-drag nights.

What about y’all? What’s the queer event scene like where you’re at? Would you be down to start a Pop-Up Gay Bar in your town?

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Robin doesn't lean in, she spreads out. Her skills include talking up the movie Spice World to strangers. In any situation, she would prefer to get campy. She's a hedonist, lady dandy, and lazy academic. She has a twitter and a tumblr.

Robin has written 42 articles for us.


  1. Just a quick clarification, “Ambush Rochester” is actually a spin-off of “Ambush Buffalo”. Who have been doing the pop-up gay bar thing/ queer lady bar thing for the last few years as a response to the lack of queer bars (and specifically queer women spaces) in the Buffalo, NY area. They’ve been going strong since late 2012 and pull attendees from all of the Western New York state area. That’s how it built out to Rochester. It’s all love between the two groups; I just wanted to give Buffalo their proper due.

    Here is their Facebook link:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ambush/360685600679531

    (Sorry to be that person! I just have A LOT of Buffalo, NY Pride! Excuse me.)

  2. Hi, I am one of the organizers of Pop Up Gay Bar (and started Guerrilla Queer Bar with some friends in SF back in 2000). It’s been interesting to see the concept be adapted to different cities over the years.

    This time around we wanted to provide event organizers in towns everywhere (and not just the US) with a “GQB in a Box”. Basically what we did is build a location aware email list, so organizers everywhere have access to a shared list, but announcements are filtered by location (so people in Lake Tahoe, for example, see announcements for events nearby). We’re also handling the technology side of things, so organizers can focus on coming up with fun ideas for events, while we provide tools to make promoting events easy.

    Thanks again for mention. We’ll be interested to see where it goes from here. And if you’re in the SF Bay Area, we’ll be repurposing several popular tourist traps as leather bars on Fri Sept 19th (it’s Folsom Weekend).


  3. Guerilla Queer Bar is still alive and kicking in Boston and some other cities. It’s just run by The Welcoming Committee. And they also have a women’s night. I used to go a bunch but stopped because here’s it usually some douchey bar with a cover, and I don’t need to go to one of those to drink with friends.

  4. We could use this in NYC, too. I bet it’d go over like gangbusters — not all of us are convenient to the West Village or to Park Slope (nor do we want to be) where the only lesbian bars are. And it seems like all the roving ladyqueer parties are still in Brooklyn or downtown. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be a hit in Astoria or Inwood or the South Bronx or something.

    Ooh, ooh, let’s do one on the Staten Island Ferry one night! Floating pop-up gay bar!

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