Pop-up lesbian bar creates space for queer women

Katy Davidson started Temporary Lesbian Bar in March to help fill the void left by the closure of the E-Room. Photo by Sarah Meadows.
Katy Davidson started Temporary Lesbian Bar in March to help fill the void left by the closure of the E-Room. Photo by Sarah Meadows.

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

It’s been almost two years since Portland’s last lesbian bar went out of business — or longer, depending on how you view the E-Room’s last ditch rebranding as the more inclusive but still quirky Weird Bar.

The Division Street building that housed the bar for some 15 years has been torn down to make way for new developments, but its spirit lingers like a phantom limb. Amid the repeated assertions that “someone” should open up a new establishment, 35-year-old Katy Davidson is doing her part to keep the dream alive.

In March, she hosted the first installment of an event she calls Temporary Lesbian Bar. Featuring DJs, games, and plenty of ladies, it seeks to recreate the space venues like the E-Room provided, if only for one night.

Davidson talked to PQ Monthly about how the event got started, why it matters, and what folks can expect at the next installment – coming to Mississippi Pizza May 24.

PQ: Where did the idea for Temporary Lesbian Bar come from? Is anyone else involved in organizing it?

Davidson: The idea was delivered to me on a beautiful ray of light. I am the main organizer. I generally also involve some of my friends as DJs and co-promoters.

PQ: How would you describe the event to someone who hasn’t attended?

Davidson: Temporary Lesbian Bar is a conceptual event with a physical manifestation. It is romantic and sweet and friendly and inclusive. It is genre-less, other than being housed under a gigantic queer umbrella, and geared essentially toward women. Picture a mind opening and expanding like the universe. Picture something free from bullshit.

PQ: Is anyone excluded from attending? Do you have to be a lesbian to attend?

Davidson: No one is excluded.

PQ: When was the first event held? What has the response been like?

Davidson: I hosted the first Temporary Lesbian Bar on March 29 of this year. All kinds of people came out of the woodwork in support of this event. I saw a variety of ages and ethnicities represented. It was crowded and perfect. Some people danced, some people played board games, everyone ate pizza. The room felt like it was bursting with love.

PQ: Why did you choose Mississippi Pizza as the location? Is there a cover? Is it 21-and-over?

Davidson: I occasionally promote events at Mississippi Pizza. I have found it to be such a welcoming venue for whatever crazy idea I concoct. Though they are clearly a mainstream venue that does not specifically cater to any segment of the population, they seem to be incredibly thankful for the support of the queer community. There is no cover, and yes, the event is 21+, just like at any other bar.

PQ: Why is it important to have lesbian-specific spaces? Do you frequent other such spaces (i.e. Hot Flash/Inferno Dances, etc.)?

Davidson: Though the event is clearly not limited to lesbians alone, it feels powerful to set aside a space to encourage women to commune. I purposely keep the volume of the music at a level in which it is loud enough to dance, but also quiet enough to converse. I personally rarely frequent other such spaces, but only because I am weird and I will often stay home and listen to Doobie Brothers or whatever. I think Mrs. is fun, and Sugartown seems really positive, too.

PQ: Do you think the lesbian bar is a dying breed or is there hope for a rebirth in Portland?

Davidson: I don’t necessarily think it’s a dying breed — I’m inspired by the longevity of the Lexington Club in San Francisco, for example. Purely from a personal standpoint, I hear fewer and fewer people identify themselves exclusively as “lesbian,” and because of that fact, I must admit I employ the use of the word in the title of my event somewhat ironically (sincere emphasis on somewhat). Beyond the irony, I use the word “lesbian” as a tip of the hat to our elders, who fought in the trenches for us, and who made our lives a hell of a lot easier and more awesome for us today. Let’s face it, we live in a world now where lines are becoming more and more blurred. In spite of this, women are still oppressed in our country, even in the most seemingly innocuous of ways. Women should have a space! It doesn’t have to be exclusive, but I believe women should be encouraged to interact together in meaningful ways.

PQ: What would you like to see Temporary Lesbian Bar become?

Davidson: I honestly have no idea. I’m happy to have it be a regular event for now, and to continue the theme of love and friendship and positivity. If someone wants to open a lesbian bar in Portland for real, they should consider hiring me as a consultant. I have a million ideas about what works and what doesn’t, and experience to back it up, specifically as a promoter and organizer and vibe-creator.

Temporary Lesbian Bar, 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., May 24 at Mississippi Pizza Pub (3552 N. Mississippi Ave.), featuring DJs Walking Tour, Ladyfingers, and Weird Cactus; no cover; 21-plus. Find it on Facebook.

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