New York City now has a second Black-owned LGBTQ bar.
Last month, it looked like New York City might be without a Black-owned space for LGBTQ people to drink, party, and feel welcome. After being the target of several crimes like the burning of its displayed Pride flag and the beating of its owner, the Alibi Lounge in Harlem was struggling to survive during the current pandemic. Thankfully, the bar’s finances were stabilized with the help of crowdfunding. Even better, it now appears that the Alibi Lounge now has a peer when it comes to Black-owned LGBTQ bars.
Married couple Charles Hughes and Richard Soloman recently opened their own bar called the Lambda Lounge. This bar, which is also located in the Harlem-neighborhood, opened this past Saturday. In order to respect safety regulations, the bar plans to use its outdoor deck and backyard space. In addition, the current plan is to only open on Saturdays between 6-11 pm.
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Speaking to Time Out, the owners expressed their desire to create a safe space for LGTBQ people and specifically Black LGBTQ people living in Harlem.
“We wanted to create a space for our community that you might get in Soho but bring it uptown,” Hughes says.
According to Soloman, the idea started when they went to a club with friends a few years ago. While dancing, the DJ “stopped everything and screamed in the microphone: ‘men don’t dance with men here.’ That struck a nerve with me. We need to have a gay club, a gay environment that is a safe space for us.”
But that’s not the only business venture these two full-time insurance company employees have gone through. In 2016, the same year they got married, the couple launched Lambda Vodka. The grain-based vodka was created in order to have an LGBTQ created and backed vodka brand.
Now, these two entrepreneurs have moved onto the next saga in their lives and careers. As they shared with Out Magazine, they are now “down the street” from the Alibi Lounge.
That said, the Lambda Lounge is painting its own upscale feel and personality. The owners are making sure of that.
“We had friends tell us to just put friends inside and people would accept that,” Hughes explained to Out. “We wanted to give our customers something a little more upscale, downtown feel in Harlem. We decided to go with big, beautiful leather couches in here. We want people to come and enjoy themselves and be able to lounge. We have three sections, throughout. We have a number of features we have PlayStations in the sections, a call server button.”
Soloman then added, “That’s so people don’t have to wait. For us, customer service is important so you’ll be able to press a button and a server will come right over.”
With the development of a second LGBTQ bar, and a Black-owned one at that, seems that Harlem is developing its own gay-inclusive corner. And we can’t wait to see how it fairs in the future.