Nobody’s Darling Brings “Women Centered” Nightlife Back To Chicago

It goes without saying that lesbian bars in America are few and far between. This is reflected in detail in 2020’s insightful “The Lesbian Bar Project,” a documentary (sponsored by Jägermeister), which chronicled the alarming dearth of lesbian bars throughout the country. According to the documentary, there are only twenty-one lesbian bars left in the country (down from about 200 in the 1980’s). Thankfully, Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes had a vision for what Joie De Vine (located at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave. in the Andersonville section of Chicago) could be; and they’ve turned it into the cocktail lounge Nobody’s Darling (with a name taken from an Alice Walker poem: “Be nobody’s darling. Be an outcast.”)

Photo Courtesy-Susanne Fairfax

Opening a bar geared toward women in the Andersonville section of Chicago (the alternative for ladies to the consistently buzzed about Boystown area) required a great deal of thought and planning from Riddle and Barnes (who are both black and queer). Rebecca Angevine, (a white lesbian staff volunteer coordinator at a local college) told The Washington Post that Boystown is not overly welcome to the ladies. “You go to a gay bar, and you feel like an invader, invading their misogyny,” Angevine continued. “They’ll body check you on the dance floor. You’re waiting forever for a drink. They bully lesbians. It’s so disheartening to expect allies and get that treatment from them.” For both Riddle & Barnes, they had one mission; Nobody’s Darling “is built to be welcoming,” Barnes, 52, told NBC News. “That’s what we’ve been trying to create.”

With a name taken from one of the most prolific lesbian authors in history, it makes sense that naming the bar after other notable black trailblazers, some of which are queer, was simply a natural fit. The J. Kincaid Daiquiri is named after the novelist Jamaica Kincaid, while the A. Walker Summer Martini is named for the novelist Alice Walker; and the Jos Baker Manhattan, named after the famed civil rights activist Josephine Baker. (A fourth cocktail to honor the gay Black writer James Baldwin is being considered). 

(Akilah Townsend for The Washington Post)

Barnes reflects on the gravity of what Nobody’s Darling means to NBC News, saying “There’s something very bold about what we’re trying to do as two African American queer women, there’s something kind of going off of maybe a path that people think might be set for us,” she said, speaking specifically about the dwindling number of gay bar owners in the U.S. who are women and black. “I feel really strongly that this should be an inspiration for more women-centered or lesbian bars to open back up,” Barnes said. “It’s just so important, and … very exciting.”

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