The coverage of lesbian bars in this city is so slim, you’d think the population died somewhere outside a five-mile radius of Cattyshack. Coverage of Queens nightlife is even sadder: There is an inherent assumption that everyone’s dying to abandon her outer borough for the latest Manhattan hotspot, that real VIP establishment with all the shelf life of half-and-half, where you can demurely scream your coke order from the street corner at 3 a.m. Ironically—while we’ve been busy rushing between Pacha and Spot Britney Visited Once—lesbian bar nights in Queens have been quietly growing into one of the least pretentious, most compelling scenes in town.
“What I love about Chueca (69-04 Woodside Ave),” said bar promoter Marlene Jiminez about the Woodside establishment and the only full-time lesbian bar in Queens, “is the beautiful women.” A recent visit during Chueca’s Mardi Gras party revealed she was right. Imagine all that a young horny dude could ever want and dream—then gently turn him away at the door. Boobs: There were a lot of them. A pretty shot-girl in a gold bikini sold Jell-O shots off a tray while others lit flaming mystery Chueca shots from behind the bar; another woman, in a man’s fedora and white top, got freaked from behind, then pulled her shirt down to flash her breasts, before descending down the dance floor throng of mostly young Colombian, Dominican, and Puerto Rican girls. A bartender with long, wavy, brown hair jumped up on the bar and—in a move that would have left us impaled for life on a Jim Beam bottle—leaned out into the crowd while grasping on to the ceiling beam and performed some type of primo-volcanic Shakira bootyshake. Who are these women? And why aren’t there more places like this? “People need to realize they don’t have to head out to Manhattan,” Jiminez said. When [they do], there could be more business. [Right now] the demand isn’t there, so owners aren’t taking a chance of opening lesbian bars in Queens.”
Olga and Francesca, the Colombian couple who own Chueca, started out partying just a few blocks away at Bum Bum Bar (63-14 Roosevelt Ave). Bum Bum (pronounced “boom boom”) is a mixed gay/lesbian crowd, mostly butch/femme on Saturdays, and skews a bit older and sticks mainly to salsa—and to a crowd of regulars with little intrusion from random walk-ins. “I feel like I’ve entered a secret society,” a friend whispered upon entering the windowless building on an empty block of Roosevelt Avenue—only to find another completely packed dance floor. A young girl in a nowhere-to-hide green halter top gyrated against her plain-faced girlfriend in baggy pants and a baseball cap; a middle-aged bleached blond woman in a short sequined dress moved past us at the bar with her butch dancing partner in baggy men’s trousers. Women in silk tops that dropped to their navel sipped cocktails next to mom-types in pleated slacks up to their waists. This was not a Camelot of pretty people nor the land of people who hate pretty people. It was a minority of a minority that—strange enough—had room for everyone.