Two South Bronx Bars Look to Attract Gay and Lesbian Clientele
PORT MORRIS — Like elsewhere in the city, the South Bronx is home to its fair share of gay and lesbian residents. But as for a gay and lesbian social scene — not so much.
“There really is no scene in the South Bronx,” said Jamie Jones, 41, who owns a print shop in Port Morris.
“It’s non-existent,” said a Bronx college student, 20, who asked to use only his last name, George.
“It’s there — but it’s not there,” said Joseph Diaz, 40, general manager of the Bruckner Bar and Grill. “We really don’t have one place to go to in The Bronx.”
The Bruckner bar and another popular Port Morris hangout, The Clock Café and Martini Bar, hope to change that. Both recently launched new monthly parties tailored to the borough’s underserved gay crowd.
“There is no set gay bar in The Bronx, but I think there is room for one,” said Michael Brady, the Clock Bar’s general manager. “And there’s a huge LGBT population to make that happen.”
Some 2,481 same-sex couples, or about 9 percent of the city's total, live in The Bronx, according to an analysis of 2010 census data by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Yet most Bronx residents would be hard-pressed to name a single dedicated gay or lesbian bar in the borough.
Instead, many say they venture to Manhattan for a night out on the town, to venues in Chelsea or Hell's Kitchen, or to the popular Washington Heights gay bar, No Parking.
A smattering of Bronx bars host gay and lesbian nights.
Mi Gente Café in Parkchester, for instance, throws a Tuesday night party targeted to lesbians, which attracts as many as 200 people each week, according to Bambi Santana, the party’s promoter.
But some gays and lesbians are wary of such events, which they say are often sparsely attended and uninviting.
“You go there and the place is almost empty and the patrons aren’t even gay,” said Appolonia Cruz, a Bronx-based drag performer.
When primarily straight bars try to organize gay events, the bouncers can be rude, the music ill-considered and the atmosphere unwelcoming, Cruz said.
“They’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” she said. “They’re not doing it so the community has a place to go — they’re doing it for the gay dollars.”
Others said that Bronx clubs seem to offer more all-female parties than all-male ones — perhaps because of lingering biases, they suggested.
“A club will try to start a gay night, then get low attendance because of the high level of homophobia in The Bronx,” said Charly Joaquin Dominguez, 31, a Bronx artist.
Both the Bruckner and Clock Bar insist their gay and lesbian nights are different.
First, there is the location.
The bars sit in a corner of Port Morris known for its hip, if tiny, community of artists and young professionals. That community includes many gays and lesbians hankering for a local hangout, several residents said.
“There’s a lot of gay people living in this area,” said Jeanine Alfieri, 51, a local artist. “People are starting to say, ‘We don’t want to have to travel to Manhattan every time we want to go out.’”
Also, management at both bars say their events are more about fostering unity than raking in money.
Clock Bar, which threw its first monthly Pride Night in July, donates part of the proceeds from each event to a different gay-oriented organization.
Gay and lesbian patrons "know we’re not just doing it for a marketing ploy,” said Brady, the general manager. “We actually value your community and we want to be a part of that.”
About 125 people turned out for the bar’s most recent Pride Night on Saturday, Brady said.
The Bruckner has attempted gay nights before, but without much success.
This summer, Diaz, who became general manager about four months ago, asked the Bruckner’s owner to let him take another shot at a gay party. His first effort, in August, only attracted about two-dozen people, but Diaz is convinced more will show for the next gay night Oct. 6.
“It’s going to take a few tries before it gets popping,” Diaz said. “People just need to give it a chance.”