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Former Human Rights Lawyer Opens Gay Bar in Harlem

By Dartunorro Clark | August 25, 2016 1:16pm
"Elegance with an attitude" is Alibi's philosophy and a drink on the menu.
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DNAinfo/Dartunorro Clark

HARLEM — After fighting for the rights of minority groups as a human rights attorney at the United Nations for a decade, Alexi Minko decided to take his passion to a more micro level.

He gave up lawyer life and decided to open a gay-friendly bar in Harlem, after moving to the neighborhood from Tribeca about a year ago.

“I always wanted to open my own business,” he said. “Do something I enjoy.”

Minko, who himself is gay, opened Alibi Lounge at 2376 Adam Clayton Blvd. at West 139th Street in late June, and he's hoping it will become a haven for the local LGBT community. But not just by holding special events, but by offering a welcoming vibe, he said.

“I just wanted to go to a space I was used to,” Minko said. “To me, I don’t care if you’re purple or from Malaysia. But, I wanted gay people to feel like they were home. Not one day a week, not for brunch but every day we are open for them.”

While the bar opened about two months ago, Minko said it wasn't until recently that business really took off, after he was profiled by the popular photography blog Humans of New York in mid-July.

In the blog post, Minko explains his transition from working as a human rights lawyer to a bar owner.

"Unless there was an economic benefit, nobody cared about protecting children, or empowering women, or stopping genocide. And it wore me down," the post reads. "My colleagues were worn down too. After ten years I had to quit. Last week I opened this bar. It’s not human rights, but at least now I can drink for free.”

Minko said dozens of tourists, inspired by his story, have been dropping into the bar as of late.

The cozy lounge features an L shaped bar and black mosaic tile walls with black-and-white portraits of men hanging on them.

The bar offers happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. daily, with martinis going for $5.50 and beers for $3.50.

A cocktail menu is also available, including one drink called Elegance is Attitude, made with Tattinger, a French champagne that goes for $85 a bottle at the bar, mixed with brandy and bitters. The cocktail is priced at $15 and comes in a champagne flute.

“I want people to say, ‘I can still afford to go there and still have one of the most elegant experiences,’” Minko said.

Alibi Lounge is open 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.