LGBTQ+ and gay bars in Chicago are declining, study shows; The trend is also continuing nationwide

Chicago — The number of LBGTQ+ and gay bars in Chicago and nationwide is declining, data shows. Experts say it could mean fewer rooms for some of the community, especially those from different backgrounds.

“Our experience has been going to bars in our community and not necessarily feeling welcome,” Angela Barne said.

Barnes and Renauda Riddle opened Nobody’s Darling in Andersonville in 2020. Nobody’s Darling is a black, queer, female-owned and “women forward” bar.

“People are so excited that we own this bar because they get to see themselves in us, queer women of color,” Riddle said.

Their community-based bar has done well during the pandemic, even earning a nomination for the coveted James Beard Award.

“We fill a niche that most bars in town don’t have,” Riddle said.

In the two years since Nobody’s Darling opened, a growing number of LGBTQ+ bars have closed.

Greggor Mattson, professor of sociology at Oberlin College, examines this worrying trend.

“36.6% of gay bar listings disappeared between 2007 and 2019. So more than a third of gay bars have closed in a 12-year period,” he said.

His data also shows that Chicago had 38 gay bars listed in 2017. In 2019, that number dropped to 34 and in 2021 to 26. That means 23.5% of Chicago’s gay bars were lost in two years.

“Yet in most parts of the country, gay bars are the only public LGBTQ+ places. In other words, they’re the only place where queer people can reliably meet other queer people in public,” Mattson said.

In Chicago, Northalsted has long been home to many of the city’s gay bars. However, some say that many of these establishments cater primarily to white gay men. As some LGBTQ+ bars close, gay men of color, transgender people, non-binary people and lesbians may lose out.

“If you don’t have spaces like that, it’s harder to find community,” Barnes said.

“When the only bar with a purpose-built drag stage closes, drag queens and drag kings are left with nowhere to practice their art. If they do different things then I’m really sad when a bar like this goes away because they are special,” Mattson said.

He added that the decline of gay bars was due to the growing popularity of location-based dating apps.

It might not all be bad news; Bars that may not be listed as LGBTQ+ welcome the community.

Another positive, according to Mattson’s research, is that 100% of lesbian bars across the country have been maintained during the pandemic. However, Nobody’s Darling is one of only a few women’s striker bars left in America.

“It was sad because these were places where women really found community, and you know if you don’t have that, where do you go,” Barnes said.

She and Riddle both hope their bar will last for many years to come.

The study raises concerns about where certain bars may close. For example, if a facility closes its doors in a neighborhood like Andersonville or Northhalsted, it may not have a large impact, but if one closes in a neighborhood or suburb that doesn’t have as many opportunities, it may impact that community more.

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https://abc13.com/chicago-gay-bar-lgbtq-lesbian-nobodys-darling/11942644/ LGBTQ+ and gay bars in Chicago are declining, study shows; The trend is also continuing nationwide

Dais Johnston

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