It’s January in Boulder, one by one people pack into the Absinthe House but it’s not a typical Friday night there. No, this Friday something is different. A man walks by in full on scuba wear, mask and snorkel included. There are women in bikinis and sarongs drinking vodka tonics; oodles and oodles of tank tops rubbing shoulders on the dance floor and the subtle glimmer of glitter sparkling throughout. Beach balls jump through the air to the beat of electronic music and standing around are plenty of floral shirted men It smells slightly of suntan lotion but mostly of sweat. The expansive bar is packed from the door to the dance floor. People are getting their beach on. This scene might never have happened if it wasn’t for Proposition Gay.
(Beach Night, January 2011)
Prop Gay is an organization that started essentially to save gas. In June of 2009, Mathew Sommers, creator and CU student, had recently turned 21 and was spending most of his weekends driving to gay bars in Denver, he, like many other residents wanted more of that type of experience in the town he lived.
“I figured I’m in no position to start a bar, but there are a lot of awesome bars in Boulder and we could utilize them. So, why don’t we all just go to the same bar, the same time, the same day,” Sommers says.
And that’s how it all started. The last Friday of every month at 10 p.m. the LGTBQ community “takes over” a Boulder bar. This was generally done in a guerilla-style, no warning, surprise attack. Initially it was small, 50 people tops, but then it quickly grew, and now the events average about 300 people. And it’s much harder to “attack” a bar in Boulder when 300 people show up since some can’t hold that many people or are not prepared for such a massive crowd. Now Prop Gay, for the most part, works with bars ahead of time, though this past January they sprung it upon Absinthe House in a throw-back guerilla style.
“Everyone seemed to be away in the mountains all week for the X-Games so when Friday rolled around business went through the roof,” Zac Roeling, 23, Absinthe House bartender, says, “Everyone was happy, tips were great, people were friendly, we had no security issues that night, no one seemed uncomfortable or acted rude, it was great.”
The Absnithe House had such success that they’re considering having their own monthly Gay night.
“People were calling us afterward asking if that’s how every Friday is, it isn’t yet but I know I’d like it to be,” Roeling says.
(Beach Night, January 2011)
The monthly act, which has been growing steadily now for almost two years, begs the question as to whether or not Boulder needs a gay bar, and would it be sustainable?
“We have come to the agreement that we don’t really want a gay bar necessarily. It would be nice if it existed but this works for us for now,” Sommers says.
Proposition Gay seems to be more of a social movement, a queering of a space, a place where one can really start to see social change. The LGTBQ community is not separating itself into it’s own bar but coming out and meshing where they equally belong.
Sommers says, “It’s interesting to notice people’s reactions, like, something’s not quite right in here. This isn’t like a normal night. There are a lot of gay people here!”
The reaction from the regular crowd is mostly positive; many hang out the whole night and everyone parties together. There have been times when some people feel uncomfortable and leave, but it seems to be pretty rare, and as Sommers says, “We’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”
Some people think that the bars in Boulder are already great; none of the gay bars in the past have survived so why not just embrace what’s here? Have a drink at the Kitchen or go dance at ‘Round Midnight. Do everything anyone would do, but still be who you want to be.
“In that way Boulder is very progressive,” Sommers says, “People are so comfortable being with whoever they’re with, holding hands, kissing, I haven’t felt it’s been too much of an issue.”
(SantaCon, November 2010)
Other people would love for there to be a gay bar here.
“It’s one way you establish a community,” Chase Folsom, 27, CU grad student, says, “It brings awareness and openness to the community and it’s a meeting ground for younger crowds to accept each other.”
Most people agree that Proposition Gay is a step in the right direction.
“It falls short in that not everyone knows about it, rotating bars doesn’t establish consistency and I have to go out of my way to find out where it’s going to be,” Folsom says. “Also I don’t want to feel like I have to “attack” a bar, I want them to already accept me.”
But Proposition Gay is demanding a presence; at least monthly, but monthly is still a start and is better than not at all.
The night isn’t necessarily about the need for a gay bar but the need to create community, to network with like-minded people, to move progressively forward, to queer a space, to engage in social change, to have a good time.
With 300+ people it’s by the far the best dance party of the month.
Plus there is no driving to Denver.
Over time, and the building up of a stronger scene, current Boulder bars may take the initiative to start having their own gay night; though it wouldn’t be too difficult for the LGTBQ community to pick a bar they liked and regularly go to that one, whether it’s an “official” gay bar or not. But that’s up to the community to decide.
This month’s Prop Gay is going to be an epic throwback to ‘the days of yore’, when Boulder had a gay bar. The old Yard, Boulder’s longest standing gay bar, (now 28th Street Tavern and still queer-friendly) has extended a warm welcome to host this Friday.
Friday, February 25th
28th Street Tavern
2690 28th Street
10:00pm – 2:00am
For the Boys–dancing, $3 wells, ding-dong ping-pong, pin-the-leather-on-the-daddy, twink auction and fisting (some restrictions may apply).
For the Girls–pool tables, darts, foosball, $3 wells, dancing, arts and crafts, full-contact sports and bunk-beds.
*Note: all activities have been resurrected from ‘the days of Yard’ for your enjoyment.*
28th Street Tavern is not in the downtown Pearl Street area so please remember to drink and drive responsibly.
For more information on Proposition Gay and to sign up for their monthly email notification or to discover where this month’s bar of choice is check out the Proposition Gay website.