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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.
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?