There are currently only 21 lesbian bars in the United States. Yes, only 21. Since the pandemic and the unexpected hit to their cash flow, these beloved landmarks have faced all kinds of hardships. They have struggled to keep their doors open and to support their employees. We caught up with two people who decided to put their talents to work and help save space for your local lesbian bar and the LGBTQIAA+ Community.
Elina Street and Erica Rose are the co-founders of the Lesbian Bar Project and joined us this June so we could learn all about their efforts to offer aid and help save lesbian bars in the United States. Elina taught us about the Project, how it started and how we can help.
The Lesbian Bar Project was birthed at the beginning of the pandemic when our cherished spaces, were taken away from us. The pandemic hit, quarantine set in and we realized that we needed these spaces more than ever. Coincidentally, there were articles being published about the fact that the numbers of remaining lesbian bars were low and that the pandemic could bring that number down to zero, wiping out lesbian bars entirely. Erica Rose (my co-director) and I, both filmmakers, wanted to put our skills as storytellers to good use, and find a way to give back to the community. As a result, we created the PSA in 2020 and raised over $117,000 that went directly to the bars, helping them pay rent and payroll. Now we have relaunched the campaign in hopes of raising an additional $200,000 to go directly to the bars, split evenly among them, offering even more stability to the owners and employees.
When we launched the first campaign, we had a list of 15 bars, and after the success of the fundraiser and more research, we received a notice that there were more bars, so we have increased the list to 21 bars. The number is still low and unacceptable so this is why we decided to relaunch the campaign for Pride this month, hoping for a brighter future for the bars, and to ensure that they thrive in a post-pandemic environment.
What makes a bar uniquely lesbian is that it first and foremost caters to and prioritizes queer women, that being said, lesbian bars are also inclusive of the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. It is important to preserve lesbian bars in order to preserve the history of these marginalized spaces, and our culture and history as a whole. Additionally, it is vital to have spaces that cater to a marginalized community, these spaces are more than bars, they are a safe space, a community center. A place for you to meet your mentor, wiser elder, and your younger self.
In our new documentary film, we celebrate the language and the evolution of the community, the fact that today we have the terminology to identify the members of the community. We view lesbian bars as bars for lesbians "AND", and we show that a lot of them are making a conscious effort to open their doors to everyone else within the community as well. As far as history goes, there never was a "lesbianhood" as there were gay'borhoods, where lesbian bars were difficult to find and identify, they were hidden. The project is really important to amplify that they exist, and that they should not go extinct, otherwise our history, our culture, and our identity will be erased.
Trans woman and LBP supporter. Sherman Oaks, CA
Most of the bars that we highlighted in our campaign had never connected with one another, and this is what we like to think as the irony of the pandemic, we are unable to be together in person, yet the Lesbian Bar Project connected us more than ever. Erica and I wanted to find a way to connect the bars during the pandemic so we came up with the concept of creating the virtual map. We wrote the script for the PSA, and we co-directed the new documentary, interviewed some of our bartenders, community activists, and patrons from the film. Together we edited so we could raise awareness in an effort to save these beloved landmarks.
Queer actress, friend of the project, and occasional creative collaborator with Erica Rose. Los Angeles, CA
Our website features a map that highlights each of the lesbian bars located within the US, nationwide. We want the community to show up to their local lesbian bar and spread the word about them. We also hope that new bars can be created as a result of our project. Our end goal as filmmakers is also to make an episodic series where we travel and document each of the bars.
Co- Founder of the Lesbian Bar Project by Mark Elzey Brooklyn, New York
LBP has many events coming up this month, screenings and partnerships, and everyone should visit www.lesbianbarproject.com to watch our film for free and learn more about the incredible bar owners that we chose to highlight. Please donate to our poo fund as well, on our website or through Venmo @lesbianbarproject. You can also stay up to date with us on instagram at @lesbianbarproject.
Social Media Coordinator for The Lesbian Bar Project by Nicole Kotha Dayton Ohio