For a long time, bars have been integral to queer culture and history. From providing release to accepting cultural communities to ports in storms that prove lifesaving for those who have nowhere else to turn to. Of course, these spaces are also politicised.
Bars at the Centre of A Movement
The riots that broke out in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969 catapulted LGBTQ rights into a social justice movement. The demonstrations by members of the queer community have helped reshape the lives of generations ever since. Strides made, such as marriage equality, owe to those who fought the police and the activists who continued to campaign afterwards. However, incidents like the recent shooting in Pulse nightclub, Miami, show that there's still a lot of work to be done.
Bars and Their Communities
But on a smaller scale, queer communities have met in bars to create networks and act freely since time immemorial. Artists like Keith Haring paid their way through art school by bussing tables (Danceteria). Susanne Bartsch developed an inclusive club scene that has impacted fashion, media and platformed icons like Ru Paul (The Love Ball). So working within club, bar or pub culture is a way for queer people to get paid whilst simultaneously going through periods of adjustment, grief, self-discovery or growth. Hannah Lanfear, a founding member of Cocktail QTs — group for LGBTQ persons in the hospitality industry — said, "Moving to cities and finding work within [the hospitality] sector can be a lifesaving decision." So what happens to queer expression when the bars are shut?
The Absence of Bars
Repetitive lockdowns have made it hard for many to be with their chosen families and have forced some workers to return to villages, towns and cities where they feel an outsider. A study of LGBTQ people's experience during the pandemic by University College London and Sussex University found 69% of participants suffered depressive symptoms, and 90% had experienced increased homophobia or transphobia. A third of the 310 respondents said they could not be open about their sexuality during the pandemic as they were living in homes where they could not be their authentic selves, and as they had nowhere else to go, this significantly impacted mental health.
Support During Lockdown
However, the desire to commune was quickly transposed to the virtual realms of the internet. LGBTQ people haven't bid goodbye to parties and celebrations during lockdowns, with the online world allowing events to go ahead in cyberspace and bring people together to feel a sense of community in what will have been a very difficult time for many. As Hannah says. "We've done our best to stay connected though it's been really challenging. Ultimately, I think we are massively looking forward to having a post-Covid party!"
Where to Find the LGBTQ Community Online
We asked Hannah where people looking for queer spaces on the internet could go. She suggested, "Queer House Party and Duckie are two fantastic organisations that have got really familial vibes. For those in strife, The Outside Project offer support to LGBTQIA persons who find themselves homeless — not an uncommon occurrence for those who have got family who have rejected them. There is a new LGBTQIA Sober Space opening in Shoreditch; We Exist run a sober trans space; Club Soda run Queers without Beers. There are often LGBTQIA groups for those interested in [sports like] climbing, for instance, so worth seeking those online.”
How Pride Month Began
A year after the police raid of the Stonewall Inn, organised demonstrations took place across New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco to honour the first anniversary of the riots. Every year since, additional cities began to run their own public demonstrations. The anniversary of the Stonewall Riots became known as Pride Day. Then in 1999, Bill Clinton declared the whole month of June, Pride Month.
Where to Celebrate Pride Month
The government roadmap is going to plan so far, and this June it looks like Pride Month will be back out in the open. Gay pride parades and marches have vastly improved the landscape for LGBTQ+ rights because of their insistence on visibility. While Madrid Gay Pride, Sao Paulo Gay Pride or San Francisco Gay Pride attract millions of visitors, more than 70 other countries have laws that allow discrimination or persecution of LGBTQ+ people. With restrictions beginning to ease around the UK, there's hope that planned pride parades and gay pride events will go ahead. You can find a list of planned events on Google.
With bars re-opening, it's a relief for many, who may not get the support they need elsewhere and will help provide a reunion for communities to be together again. We asked Hannah where she would recommend going for post-lockdown blow out, and as she’s based in London, she replied,“I'm a big fan of Dalston Superstore, The Glory, and Duckie. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is an institution!”
Hannah Lanfear is the founder of The Mixing Class, an accredited training program for aspiring bartenders or home bar enthusiasts. If you work in any sector of hospitality and want to join the Cocktail QT conversation, then join the Cocktail QT Facebook Group for news of events and meetings.