Let us pull back the curtain for this column. I got something to say. Cue the orchestra and Darth Vader breathing. Let’s talk about the BAR WARS.
I guess you can blame it on Generation X for not being faithful to just the gay bar. After all, we fought our whole lives for equality and fairness. Why not go drink at any bar we want? Or, maybe it’s the Millennial Generation who is really at fault. These gender benders and anarchist of identity labels and compartmental boxes rebel against tradition — even when it comes to partying.
Times have changed. In the past, the gay bar was a community center, a safe space to be who you are, a place to find friends, hook-up and even possibly fall in love. Now we got Grindr, Growlr, Tinder, Adam4Adam, Scruff or we got trendy, chic, shiny new clubs every month asking us to celebrate, drink, dance and party. LGBT people are no longer a guarantee to gay clubs and bars. If we remember Hartigan’s, Marigny Dance Club, Rainbow In are among a few gay bars lost in Charlotte area recently. Even in major cities, historic gay dance clubs and bars are closing.
The truth is that LGBT people are going anywhere and everywhere to spend money — and party these days. Some call it mainstreaming of gay culture. Others call it assimilation. And then there are many who call it acceptance. I don’t know who the Dark Side is anymore, frankly.
What’s even worse is that the LGBT clubs are seemingly battling each other. And, drag queens, like us, have become the Stormtroopers. According to the 2014 Census, there are now one million people in the City of Charlotte (Mecklenburg County) and Charlotte Pride broke 100,000 in attendance last year. But most gay clubs and bars are still fighting over the same 100-200 LGBT patrons with their drag shows and drink specials weekly. That is not the answer.
But I do know the Power of the Force seems to be in drag. You can find drag videos on YouTube, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on TV or you can see a drag show almost anywhere these days. Yes, drag is popular — it’s trending!
Drag is the bridge builder between queer culture and straight culture. Gay clubs and bars can compete for straight people just as much as straight clubs can get LGBT people. But the gay dance club or bar has to sell more than drinks and a drag show to be truly successful. Nightlife is about selling an experience — a unique experience. And that is where the war is being lost among LGBT bars and why more will likely close.
What’s my point? Bar Wars have little to do with the actual drag queens. It has everything to do with business and competition to keep the doors open of LGBT bars and clubs — who are desperately trying to survive. And it has sadly been at the detriment of drag queens who are often underpaid and undervalued for what they do for the community.
A very old drag queen once told me — “Drag is about acceptance of who we are; it is laughter to endure the pain of a health crisis epidemic and it is about a riot to take back our rights and it must always be about loving our community.” I think it is important to remember this. Nothing (including Bar Wars) should keep us from helping legends like Boom Boom LaTour with a benefit show or one another in a time of need. I will haunt you bitches if you don’t show up at my funeral.
Drag queens awaken! The Bar Wars must not destroy our sisterhood (aka The Force). Sure, we may fight now and then, or make fun of a queen’s cracked foundation. But at the end of the day, there is not anything I would not do for any drag queen in Charlotte (Love you, Fishsticks xo).
Who will win the Bar Wars? Ultimately, it is not a drag queen who will keep a bar open. It is how the business meets the changing market and the needs of the consumers.
Cue music. Darth Vader exits stage left followed by Stormtrooper. End scene.
— Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and performs to raise money so she can finish her Death Star (and raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hot spots. Plus don’t forget her weekly Saturday night show with Patti O’Furniture and regular Friday night party bus. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye.