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Scene and Heard | Nowhere Bar, New York

2017-02-14

Wherever you are, you're never (too) far from a gay bar. So tune in every week for the inside track on why your local queer venue loves you, and why you should love it right back, as we get the low-down from the people who know best – the owners, the barmen, the DJs and the fabulous performers.

Nowhere Bar is a long—standing, East Village, queer, divey basement bar.  Where "all stripes on the flag are welcome," and "neighborhood vibes are interspersed with blasts of glamour," according to Jude River Allan, a bartender at Nowhere for 13 years who's also a weekend DJ booker and occasional manager.

What’s the crowd like? It really depends on the night. Overall, I’d say our crowd is a really non-pretentious bunch of hard workers from all walks of life. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that the majority of our regulars identify as weirdos and leftists of some sort. We get a lot of local NYC artists and celebs that need a low-key place to hang and ease their thirst. While the crowd is mostly male, we have lots of female customers and a strong base in the trans community. When we say queer, we really mean it, and really want it ALL here.     

Why do people love your venue and what makes it unique? We really operate as a family and that extends to our customers.  The physical space is very simple and cozy but different parties transform the space to have private little nooks and decorated rooms. I think because we have such a variety within our parties and staff, people see themselves reflected in us and therefore feel at home. We also have some spectacular DJs that specialise in classics and non-mainstream tunes. If you want top 40, we aren’t your jam. If you complain about, gasp, women being present, we’ll politely give you the finger and tell you to find somewhere else. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with good tunes and cheap drinks.  

What is a typical night like at the venue? Musically, anything and everything from Siouxsie Sioux to Donna Summer to ABBA to Sharon Jones to AC/DC to Aretha to Dolly and onward. There are always some hot bearded bears drinking beer, cute couples making out in the corners, genderqueer folks cruising and getting cruised, some dykes and their best gay friends playing pool, dance floor shenanigans, cheap drink specials, and stiff cocktails!    

Who would you never let through the door?! We are supremely welcoming to most walks of life. But we have little patience for aggression and bad attitudes. With that said, we would happily turn away any of the Trump clan.  

Gay venues are closing down all the time– what do you think the gay scene needs to do to keep thriving? I think the biggest challenge to long term success is gentrification and rising rent! But I think another part of the problem is seen in the wording of the question. Gay venues need to be more than just gay. While some people might want an occasional boys night out, I think our community has evolved past that and wants a place to dance and drink with the broader spectrum of our community on a regular basis. The places with the most longevity I’ve found either have one or both of these built into their business: sex and/or alternative queer culture. Everyone’s weight fluctuates, everyone gets older, fads change and evolve—stay true to the classics and to the freaks and weirdos that got us where we are today.

What events have you got coming up next few weeks?  The last Saturday of January is the 12th anniversary of our longest running (and my favorite) party, Double Headed Disco.

For more from the Scene and Heard series, click here. If you and your venue would like to be featured please contact [email protected]