More than food: Celebrating LGBTQ+ restaurants beyond Pride Month

Happy Pride Month! Read about the impact of LGTBQ+ restaurants & bars throughout history—and how to help protect their future in this article.

Why do we celebrate Pride Month?

Every June, the LGBTQ+ community and allies celebrate Pride Month worldwide.

As rainbow flags decorate our local restaurants and bars, and we look forward to a future without discrimination, we must honor the brave activism that made this holiday possible.

Before Pride could be a celebration, it began as a protest.

Celebrated in June, Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall riots that started on June 28, 1969. Also referred to as the Stonewall Uprising, the riots began in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn—a gay club located in Greenwich Village, New York City.

For six days, brave patrons of Stonewall and neighborhood residents protested as law enforcement violently raided the Stonewall Inn, arresting men dressed in drag and women who didn’t appear feminine enough. During this time, it was commonplace for LGBTQ+ gatherings to be heavily policed—as many states in the US still classed same-sex relations as illegal.

Today, the Stonewall Riots are considered a catalyst for the gay rights movement around the world.

Preserving LGBTQ+ restaurants and bars beyond Pride Month

Throughout history, LGBTQ+ restaurants and bars have served more than just food and drinks—they’ve also provided safety, inclusion, and community.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community have historically used spaces in the hospitality industry to gather, organize, mourn, and celebrate.

“LGBTQ bars have traditionally been used as more than just a place to get a drink. They are a gathering place, community hubs, safe spaces in a predominantly heterosexual culture, a place we can plant a flag and claim as our own.”  said Scott Craig, co-owner of Akbar in Silver Lake, in an LA Times interview. “The loss of these spaces [is] devastating to the queer community.”  

While it’s impossible to distill the deep-rooted history of LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants in just one blog post, it’s important to point out that there’s still work to be done.

COVID-19's impact on LGBTQ+ businesses

The pandemic impacted the restaurant industry across the board, but preserving these spaces for minority communities is essential—for both customers and operators.

Even before COVID’S wrath on the restaurant industry began, LGBTQ+-owned restaurants and bars were particularly vulnerable to closures. In fact, a study found that 37% of queer bars in the United States closed between 2007 and 2019, ​​and those serving people of color plummeted by almost 60 percent.

In recent years, LGBTQ bar listings have lessened by 15.2% between 2019 and spring 2021 — according to recent studies conducted by sociologist Dr. Greggor Mattson. And while there’s no doubt the pandemic exacerbated these closures, technology, gentrification, and a lack of succession planning are also driving factors in the downward trend.

Bowen Yang raises awareness for LGBTQ+ restaurants and bars

To shine a light on these permanent closures of LGBTQ bars and restaurants across the country, SNL comedian Bowen Yang recently partnered with Absolut to spearhead the  “Out & Open” campaign.  

“Belonging is hard to find anywhere,” said Yang. “And that’s what this campaign is about. These LGBTQ spaces are so vital and have to be protected. It’s a designated space to go where you can feel you’re a part of something,” said the Emmy-nominated comedian.  “LGBTQ bars are monuments to our past, venues for the present, and gateways to our future.”

As part of the initiative, Absolut is partnering with and donating to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce to help make training, education, and succession planning more accessible to LGBTQ+ business owners.

Additionally, Out & Open features an audio-visual series where LGBTQ+ storytellers voice the profound role queer spaces have played in their lives.

For every listen to an Out & Open story, Absolut will add $1 to its $175,000 donation to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Today, you can support “Out & Out” by hearing stories on the Out & Open page.

Resources for LGBTQ+ owned restaurants

If you’re a proud LGBTQ+ restaurant or bar owner (or thinking about opening your own business), here are some resources designed to benefit your business and expand your reach:

  • Apply for funding at Backstage Capital. Backstage Capital invests in companies led by underestimated founders—including women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ founders.
  • Become a member of Out Professionals. Join the leading nonprofit organization for LGBTQ professionals—open to established and aspiring professionals and allies.

How to run a LGBTQ+ friendly restaurant this Pride Month and year-round

If you work in the hospitality industry, supporting LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants beyond Pride Month is a meaningful way to promote a culture of inclusion within the industry. Here’s how you can provide a safe space for staff and customers alike during Pride Month and every month.

Promote local LGBTQ+ Businesses in your neighborhood

Post and share information about LGBTQ+-owned restaurants and bars in your area on social media.

Check-in with Pride organizers in your area

Speak with LGBTQ+ business owners in your neighborhood about the best way to offer support beyond June.

Encourage diversity and inclusion amongst staff

Is your business an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace? If you haven’t added the following, consider these changes:

  • Work Descriptions: Promote LGBTQ+ leadership by explicitly encouraging LGBTQ chefs, servers, or managers to join your team on job postings.
  • Set up a policy: Train your staff with a no-discrimination policy and encourage staff to speak up if discrimination takes place—whether from customers or coworkers. Since transgender food servers are more likely to experience harassment at their workplace, ask all staff to share their desired pronouns—and vocalize a zero-tolerance policy for jokes or discriminatory comments.
  • Parental Leave: Offer maternity and paternity leave for new parents to accommodate same-sex partners.
  • Gender Neutral Bathrooms: If possible, make your bathrooms gender-neutral to ensure all staff and customers are comfortable.

Host a Pride Event

Check in with local Pride organization leaders to find ways to support beyond June. Consider hosting a “Beyond Pride” night at your restaurant to host organizers and volunteers. Look into booking an LGBTQ+ storytelling night with speakers or screen a film by LGBTQ+ filmmakers. You can also join in on the celebrations by offering pride-themed happy hours, discounts, and rainbow-themed decorations.

Donate

Pledge a donation (no matter how big or small) and post on social media to encourage your customers to donate with you. Consider donating to the aforementioned funding programs or find charities to support here.

Educate

When it comes to LGBTQ+ awareness, there’s always room for education. As an employer, it's your job to promote inclusion and diversity amongst customers and staff. Here are a handful of resources to boost your education and training:

Read more Reviews

Otter is proud to support thousands of restaurants and shine a light on the value and inclusivity so many of them bring to their communities - during pride month and beyond. Read reviews about our happy customers today and check if they’re in your area!

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