Jun 29, 2023 - News

Florida could lose its last lesbian bar as they dwindle across the U.S.

Illustration of a rainbow colored disco ball.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Vicki Gibson was proud to open what she proclaimed to be Florida's only lesbian bar. But a little over a year after starting The Ladies Room in Largo, she realized she may not be able to keep it afloat.

  • "I have built a bar over the last year all out of pocket. I’m just trying to keep it open for the LGBTQ community and the lesbians of Florida," Gibson wrote in the description of her GoFundMe.

Why it matters: Lesbian bars are a dying breed in the U.S., with less than 30 left.

What they're saying: Several donors to Gibson's fundraiser commented that places like hers are essential to Florida's queer community, fraught from losing battles against anti-LGBTQ legislation.

The intrigue: The Largo spot is one of several LGBTQ bars in the Tampa Bay area, but the only one that caters specifically to women and trans folks.

  • About a half hour away in St. Petersburg, Cocktail — an LGBTQ bar that embraces all things phallic — just expanded into a pool bar and day club called The Wet Spot.

The big picture: America's other lesbian bars have been on a decline since the 1980s when there were around 200, per the Lesbian Bar Project, which documents the few remaining spaces focused on queer women, trans and nonbinary people.

  • The total number of queer bars fell 37% between 2007 and 2019, from 1,357 to 860, per research from Oberlin College based on business listings.
  • The number of lesbian bars has always been smaller but still dropped a greater amount in that time period: 52%, from 31 down to 15.
  • LGBTQ+ bars for people of color fell 60%, from 145 to 59.

Of note: The figures from Oberlin and LBP are estimates, as bars open and close often, and the definition of "lesbian bar" can be gray.

  • Many of these spaces have changed over time as language to describe LGBTQ+ identity has evolved. The term "lesbian" itself is debated over who is included and who isn't.

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