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Two former employees of A League of Her Own in Adams Morgan are readying to open their own queer bar in D.C. Jo McDaniel and Rach “Coach” Pike founded As You Are Bar as a virtual gathering space for at-home happy hours and trivia during the pandemic. Now they’re looking for a brick-and-mortar space to bring their vision for an all-day cafe and dance boutique to life.
The co-founders of the project, which takes its name from Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” are also romantic partners. “ALOHO has a strict no fraternization rule among employees,” McDaniel jokes. “Leaving means we get to be together.”
As You Are Bar hopes to find its niche by welcoming people of all ages. “Our goal is to be a queer dance floor that’s 18 and up,” McDaniel says. Town Danceboutique used to offer 18 and up nights on Fridays before it closed in 2018, after its landlord terminated the club’s lease. Town’s owners plan to reopen the venue inside a church on North Capitol Street NE. But queer bars in D.C. and across the country are dwindling. According to Tagg Magazine, there are fewer than 20 lesbian bars left in America.
The other half of As You Are Bar will be a distinct cafe space designed with families in mind. “Part of the reason queer spaces die off is there’s no where for you to grow as a human, get married, and have babies,” McDaniel continues. “We’re looking to appeal to the younger crowd—college kids who aren’t yet of drinking age—and also afternoon parties where people are welcome to bring their kids.”
The cafe will stay open late, functioning more like a lounge, for those looking for a “post-date spot that’s not dark dark and loud loud,” according to McDaniel.
McDaniel and Pike’s chief motivation is creating a place that’s safe and inclusive. “It’s not about how you identify or what you look like,” says Pike, who is a life coach and used to bartend and work security at ALOHO. “It’s about how you behave. If you can’t be in a space appreciating queer culture, you can’t be in the space. Safety is a hard thing to find.”
“Someone can’t buy you a drink without your consent,” McDaniel adds. “If someone orders five shots, I need to hear five people shout, ‘Hell yes!’” As You Are Bar plans to hire people from marginalized communities by teaming up with organizations like the Wanda Alston Foundation and SMYAL.
The co-founders are hoping to work with a landlord to find a turn-key space and an existing liquor license. In the meantime, As You Are Bar’s virtual events are ongoing and the schedule can be found on its website.