QCulture: Big Changes In Area LGBT Nightlife

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

While some of Astoria’s newest LBGT bars already shuttered their windows, the neighborhood’s oldest changes hands.

On 24th Avenue and 37th Street, the oldest gay bar in Astoria will soon be under new management. Nathan Finnegan, who worked previously as a bartender in Manhattan, will take over Albatross Bar from a lesbian couple who ran it for more than a decade.

Finnegan said that although Albatross will remain a gay bar, he hopes straight people will feel welcome there as well.

Photo by Jackie Strawbridge Astoria’s oldest LBGT bar is getting new management.

Photo by Jackie Strawbridge
Astoria’s oldest LBGT bar is getting new management.

“I want it to be open and everyone can come, mixed,” Finnegan said, adding, “It does have a gay following so I want to bring that back.”

Finnegan has been brainstorming a number of programming ideas to draw customers to Albatross, such as pub trivia nights, free pizza nights and drag performances. He said he also plans to continue the bar’s celebrated karaoke night.

Finnegan added that he hopes to collaborate with area LBGT bars, rather than acting as a rival or unfriendly competition.

“That’s the next thing I want to do,” Finnegan said. “There shouldn’t be just one place that you go. Your neighborhood bar, come here if you play pool…you want a more clubby, dance vibe, head down to Icon. Make a community between everyone.”

Located on 33rd Street, Icon is a small LGBT club that offers late night drink deals and dancing. It is one of Astoria’s newest LGBT spots, which so far has survived while two peer establishments, Elixir Lounge and Static Lounge, have shut down.

Elixir Lounge and Static Lounge — which had initially seemed representative of a newly flourishing LGBT scene in western Queens — each closed after having been open for less than a year.

Monica Menendez is president of community LGBT group Out Astoria and a friend of the Elixir owners.

“It was a very inviting place,” Menendez said. “It was run by transgender women and not gay men, which is atypical for the industry, and so the feel of the place was different.”

Menendez added, “This was the place in Astoria where I felt most comfortable, and most comfortable bringing friends or dates — I recommended it to everyone I knew because I felt like it was the most comfortable for all genders and accepting.”

Menendez said she could not discuss the specifics of Elixir’s closing, but noted that even though Astoria has a bourgeouning LGBT population, many LGBT individuals may not be taking advantage of the bars and clubs that exist nearby.

Many of those LGBT nightlife options can be found up the 7 line in Jackson Heights.

Latino gay hotspot Club Evolution, located at Roosevelt Avenue and 77th Street, is one of the most popular and established nightlife options in the Borough. The LBGT club brings in a different DJ every night and emphasizes Latin music, from salsa to bachata.

Also in Jackson Heights, Friend’s Tavern, the oldest gay bar in Queens and Club Evolution’s “sister club,” floats throughout the week somewhere between a neighborhood dive bar and a pulsing dance party. Friend’s Tavern has a dedicated local following and is known for its five-hour happy hour, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

LGBT nightlife can also be found in Jackson Heights at Hombres Lounge, on 37th Avenue between 85th and 86th Streets, and True Colors, on Roosevelt Avenue between 79th and 80th Streets.

For LGBT fun in other areas of the Borough, look to Bum-Bum Bar in Woodside, which caters to the Latina lesbian crowd, or Pride Lounge in Forest Hills, which opened late last year and is the area’s first LGBT bar. Besides dancing and performances, owner Georgios Aspiotis offers food from his neighboring Greek restaurant, Corfu Grill.

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.