Tucson’s vanishing and surviving gay bars



Candi Trowbridge holding the Tucson Desert Leathermen logo, an inverted triangle with a lambda symbol | Joie Horwitz | 14383

Tucson Weekly has been looking at the disappearance of gay bars and businesses.

“At the height of Tucson’s gay-bar era—the late-1970s into the mid-’80s—there were about a dozen bars, and Novakowski recalls most of their names: the Graduate, the Venture, Sir James, Hair Tiz, the Joshua Tree/Backdoor, the Stonewall Eagle, Michael’s, the Fineline, Rita’s, Colette’s, Venture, Lucky Pierre’s and IBT’s. Today’s gay-bar scene includes about a half-dozen places: IBT’s, as well as Woody’s, New Moon, Brodie’s Tavern, Venture-N, and Colors.

In 2007, Entrepreneur Magazine put gay bars on its list of businesses facing extinction, along with record stores and pay phones. And it’s not just that gays are hanging out in straight bars; some are eschewing bars altogether and finding partners online or via location-based smart-phone apps like Grindr, Qrushr and Scruff,”

Thomas wrote. “Between 2005 and 2011, the number of gay and lesbian bars and clubs in gay-travel-guide publisher Damron’s database decreased by 12.5 percent, from 1,605 to 1,405. Could the double whammy of mainstreaming and technology mean that gay bars are doomed?”

It seems not.

“As long as enough people keep feeling the need for queer communion, America’s gay bars will endure. There may be fewer of them, and we may see more folks we think of as ‘straight’ in the crowd, but I believe gay people will always gather to drink and dance under their rainbow flags.”

There was the Graduate, a bar that stood at 23 W. University Blvd.
Novakowski tended bar there for 10 years, from 1979 to 1989, and returned in 1999 when the owners decided to get out of the business and wanted someone familiar to help run the bar during its last months. “It really was a neighborhood bar, and by that, I mean you couldn’t even tell it was there,” Novakowski says. Of all the bars he’s worked at or patronized, Novakowski says the Graduate was his favorite, because of the varied clientele. Inside the bar was what Novakowski calls the Million Dollar Corner. “The first eight to nine bar stools were filled with the same people every day, who worked as attorneys and stockbrokers,” Novakowski says. “On the other side is where a group of Mexicans hung out. They drank together and talked together. It’s the gay version of the Buffet.”



2 thoughts on “Tucson’s vanishing and surviving gay bars

    • Hello Michael, thank you for your comment. As you can see from the side panel, this blog is based in the United Kingdom, and until you informed us in your comment, we simply did not know there were any difficulties. Very best wishes from England, Paul


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