In the 1980s, there were an estimated 200 lesbian bars in the U.S. Forty years later—only 15 remain.
Jägermeister is using its ongoing #savethenight campaign, which the brand started to support struggling establishments through COVID, to highlight the plight of lesbian bars today and raise funds as part of a month-long fundraising effort in partnership with new initiative Lesbian Bar Project and arts service organization Fractured Atlas.
A new 90-second PSA, narrated by “Orange is the New Black” star Lea DeLaria and co-directed by Erica Rose and Elina Street, looks back at “lost spaces” from across the decades while also aiming to revigorate the love for the lesbian bars still open today.
“A space rooted in love and history," DeLaria says in the V.O. "I remember how her body moved on the dance floor. The king of the pool table, butch and beautiful,” “I remember being excited for the weekend. It was my playground, my family. I remember the lost spaces.”
The names and photos of once thriving lesbian bars are then shown, including New York City’s Kooky’s (1965-1976) and Los Angeles’ The Palms (1957-2013). “I remember when it all went silent," DeLaria continues.
Then viewers see owners of some of the lesbian bars that are still around. The campaign is running online and across Jägermeister’s social channels, as well DeLaria's.
The PSA drives viewers to the campaign website at lesbianbarproject.com which hosts testimonials from bar owners and photos of their spaces and asks for donations. There’s also a U.S. map that features the remaining lesbian bars, such as New York City’ Cubbyhole, Philadelphia’s Toasted Walnut, Dallas’ Sue Ellen’s and Washington D.C.’s A League of Her Own. DeLaria and The Katz Company serve as executive producers on the project.
Overall, the pandemic has been brutal to the 63,000 bars across the country, with many shuttering at staggering rates. At the start of 2020,16 lesbian bars existed across the U.S. and since then one closed due to the pandemic while the survival of the others remains uncertain. All proceeds from the campaign will be divided between the 15 remaining bars.
“We are thrilled to support this campaign and its mission to preserve these establishments and shared culture for the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Cliff Rigano, director of culture, lifestyle and event marketing at parent company Mast-Jägermeister US in a statement. “This is an important movement as these establishments are a crucial part of the nightlife scene and it will allow for Lesbian Bars to continue flourishing not just following the pandemic but for generations to come.”
The campaign is currently developing a documentary series on the history of lesbian bars and their social impact.