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 five years ago. Seven of 10 have closed. Number two, Twist, is “not a gay bar, it’s a social club that is gay friendly.”

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

What’s interesting about the transition of Twist isn’t that the gay owner died and his straight nephew took it on, it’s the language he uses to describe Twist’s new incarnation as “inclusive” of people in the neighborhood: “we wanted them to feel welcome–we don’t want to ostracize people.”

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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