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LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs, a place to call our own

LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs have a rich history in the Valley. They play a major role in celebrating and honoring queer history.

PHOENIX — Audrey Corley owns a bar that celebrates who she is and the way she loves; a bar that gives lesbian, bisexual, non-binary and marginalized genders a space for community void of judgment. 

"Boycott started 17 years ago as an upscale event for women because those events didn't exist for women back then," said Corley. "I got a chance to get this bar five years ago and Boycott came here to Melrose." 

Only 21 lesbian specific bars remain across the country

From the Stonewall Inn in New York City to the Abbey in West Hollywood, bars and nightclubs play a major role in LGBTQ+ history. 

They are the birthplaces of gay rights and protests for equality. The scene of the second deadliest mass shooting in American history happened at Pulse Night Club in Orlando.

However, lesbian bars have struggled to stay afloat. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"There is a lot of factors," said Corley. "Women don't go out as much as men, or historically make as much money as men." 

According to the Lesbian Bar Project, only 21 lesbian bars remain open across the country. Throughout the pandemic, the project raised funds to help bars stay open. 

Visibility matters for both the LGBTQ+ community and those who seek to understand

“It’s not an easy life coming out. It’s important for us to be visible and be known. We impact the youth and we want to inspire them to be who they are and live out loud and be proud,” said Corley. 

Boycott is one of several LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs in the Melrose District located off 7th Avenue and Indian School Road. 

“In 1999 when I moved here and went to work at Amsterdam there were 38 LGBTQIA bars or restaurants in this city,” said Stacy Lewis, who owns Stacy's at Melrose.  

Lewis has been in the Valley for more than two decades and worked his way up in the industry. He opened Stacy's eight years ago. 

"I'm very proud of how I make it work to make everyone feel welcomed in here," said Lewis. “It’s about being with people they know and relate to more.” 

The value of inclusion and the road ahead  

Both Corley and Lewis said that bars and nightclubs have evolved as more people support full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans.

“I want everyone to come to my bar and understand that it’s a place for everyone and I’m not the only gay bar in Phoenix that is like that,” said Lewis.

“I’m glad that we’re finally getting to a day and age where everyone is welcome. In these years we are becoming more inclusive," said Corley. "We are not where we need to be. Look at the acts of violence against our transgender brothers and sisters. It's dangerous for them."

Corley looks at her bar as a safe haven for others and said that the pandemic has created a shared experience for all of us despite our sexual orientation or gender identity. 

“We just came off a pandemic, there’s bigger issues than who someone is loving," said Corley. 

Resources for LGBTQIA and allies

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