san diego
New local bar night goes guerrilla
First ‘take over’ scheduled Friday, Jan. 16
Published Thursday, 15-Jan-2009 in issue 1099
There is a new bar night in town, but it isn’t hosted by your usual Hillcrest haunts. It doesn’t have a permanent location and is only featured one night each month.
It’s called Guerrilla Queer Bar – but it’s certainly not a militant movement. There is, however, an element of surprise and adventure.
“We are taking over a straight establishment,” said Carlos Marquez, who is helping to spearhead the local event. “It’s an easy way for LGBT San Diegans to become more visible outside of our community in venues that we wouldn’t otherwise venture.”
Guerrilla Queer Bar is the name of a loose-knit series of GLBT social networking groups nationwide that mobilize GLBT people – typically within 24 hours – to occupy a straight establishment, typically a bar or club, for the purpose of creating a new, but temporary outlet to meet and recreate.
The first Guerrilla Queer Bar started in San Francisco in 2000, and it has since spread cross country, popping up in Seattle and New York and even overseas in Germany.
Nicholaus Norvell, a congressional aide for Rep. Susan Davis, devised the idea of a San Diego chapter of the popular bar/club event in November.
“I actually heard the idea of it a couple of years ago when I was in D.C. for a summer and I thought it was really cool, and then it hit me again right after the passage of Prop. 8,” Norvell said. “I just thought it was something fun to do and something we haven’t done before.”
He realized the legal and safety ramifications of launching a local chapter, and recruited Marquez, the co-chair of Pride at Work, to help with the planning.
“I was at an event he was leading and I had known him for a while, and he just seemed kind of like a natural leader and had a good head on his shoulders. So I just thought he would be a good partner in doing this,” Norvell said.
The group currently has about 300 members on its Facebook group and about 150 on its MySpace page. Membership on the social networking sites started emerging once Marquez and Norvell, both members of Facebook and Myspace, individually sent out e-mail invitations to friends and urged them to invite their own friends to become members.
The new local chapter has received some criticism; some argue, given the current economic downturn, GLBT dollars should stay in gay-owned establishments.
“There is a segment of the population that will continue to patronize the gay establishments,” Marquez said. “So, we’re not really taking away from that segment of the market … and it’s only once a month.”
Organizers are also planning to start and finish their event hours before most gay-owned bars and clubs close, so attendees can head to gay-owned businesses after.
Safety has been another concern for some. Some question whether it’s safe to take over venues that cater primarily to straight clientele.
“As far as we know there has never been any violence as a result of any of the guerrilla bars that have taken place in the cities that we know of,” Norvell said.
Daniel Heller, who co-organizes the Boston Chapter of Guerrilla Queer Bar, said straight businesses have been welcoming, and there hasn’t been any reported violence.
“We have found that we are welcome with open arms at the bars we’ve [visited],” Heller said. “If there are some straight clientele that don’t want to be there then they leave, but no one gets hostile – and we’ve been to some pretty rough bars.”
Norvell and Marquez are taking precautions, though. Most Guerrilla Queer Bar groups contact the bar on the day of or before the event, but the San Diego chapter has decided to inform the bar a week before.
“It’s not negotiable. We’re not asking. We just going to tell them what we’re doing and we’re asking that they bolster their security,” Marquez said.
In addition, organizers are drafting a zero-tolerance policy against violence to be posted on their social networking sites.
For their first event, Norvell and Marquez also wanted to be cautious with the bar they selected.
“We wanted something that wouldn’t be [in] District 3 or Pacific Beach,” Marquez said.
Although organizers are expecting around 100 people to turn out for the first event, they decided on a modest-sized bar in case of a low turnout.
“So, if we don’t have a massive group of people, we still want the establishments to look like it’s full,” Marquez said.
The first “take over” is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 16. Time and location will be announced, 24 hours before, on the group’s Google e-mail list, Facebook and MySpace groups.
For more information or to sign up for the group, visit

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