The fate of rust belt gay bars

Nothing dramatizes the collapse of the Cleveland gay bar scene than this list of nominees for best gay bar from 2010. Seven of 10 have closed (n.b.: Bounce reopened):

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No new gay bars have opened between 2010 and 2015 that weren’t replacing an existing gay bar, so the failure of 7/10 isn’t a function of churn in the market.

Number two, Twist, had an uncertain future after its owner died and his nephew reopened it with the claim that it was “not a gay bar, it’s a social club that is gay friendly.” He cast this reinvention as being “inclusive” of people in the neighborhood: “we wanted them to feel welcome–we don’t want to ostracize people” (n.b.: it’s totally a gay bar).

The times I was there I’d say half the crowd was straight, mostly white, and well-dressed. They didn’t feel excluded, even back then. I don’t know whether the new Twist has more Black folks in it, but Cleveland is 53% African American and mostly poor. As in gentrification, inclusion means People Like Us by race and class.

So while some gays won’t mind the shift to inclusion, I wonder about the rest of us.


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