Lesbian Bars Were Nearly Extinct. Now a Wave of New Ones Is Thriving

Lesbian Bars Were Nearly Extinct. Now a Wave of New Ones Is Thriving

Femme, which opened in Worcester, MA, in 2023, takes the same approach. “We don’t discriminate against anyone,” says Danielle Spring, who owns the bar and restaurant with her wife. “As long as you love us, we love you.” The space sits somewhere between an old-school lesbian bar and a homey restaurant, with black walls and pops of gold and pink. It’s an aesthetic Spring dubs “not too girly, but really girly.” Cocktails and mocktails are named after queer bops, such as Fletcher’s “Becky’s So Hot” and Kehlani’s “Wish I Never.”

The people behind these new projects share a desire to create neighborhood institutions where their communities don’t just drink and leave, but feel at home and want to stick around. That extends to building menus and cocktail offerings that are enticing. “We wanted the food to be really fun, approachable, and not too fussy,” says Herbkersman, who leads the kitchen at Ruby Fruit alongside two sous chefs. There are loaded raclette fries dolloped with mostarda, charcoal-roasted Japanese sweet potatoes with anchovies, and seasonal fruit-topped olive oil cake, all to be enjoyed in a joyful pastel-colored space. Ruby Fruit’s wine list exclusively features bottles from queer and female winemakers, which can sometimes prove challenging due to affordability, small production, and limited distribution.” It’s hard to do,” says Bielagus, “but it’s fun.”

These new businesses are challenging the notion that lesbian bars of the past closed because they were no longer wanted—or needed. For its part, Femme is often so packed that there’s only standing room. You can eat a hot honey chicken sandwich or swipe pita chips through hummus as you stand shoulder to shoulder with new friends. “Women come out,” Spring says of the bar’s success. “I see familiar faces all the time.”

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Author:Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner | Website:www.bonappetit.com

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