SAN DIEGO — A sobering statistic, perhaps, only 21 lesbian bars remain open in America and it's not just because of the pandemic.
San Diego has one survivor, Gossip Grill in Hillcrest.
When you walk into Gossip Grill on University Avenue in Hillcrest there’s a sign lit in pink neon that reads, “Welcome Home Beautiful.”
“Anyone who connects with their female side at all is welcome here,” said Moe Girton, Gossip Grill owner and partner in Mo’s Universe. “There is a definite heartbeat of its own, it has a pulse of its own.”
Straight allies are welcome here too.
“I'm straight but I love this place,” said a patron.
Gossip Grill is known for its diversity says regular Jeannetta Jackson.
“It's your community, you want to have a place where you feel comfortable. Who wouldn't say I don't want a space for me?” said Jackson.
However, lesbian bars are disappearing across the country.
“I travel quite often and rarely do I find an actual lesbian bar,” said Jackson.
The Lesbian Bar Project launched a campaign last year after learning that back in the 80's there were 200 lesbian bars and now only 21 in the U.S.
They also created an interactive map of the remaining bars in America.
“I'm hoping that this whole project kind of brings us back to who we essentially are and who we want to be,” said Elina Street, Co-creator, co-director of The Lesbian Bar Project.
Gossip Grill is one of two remaining lesbian bars in California, the other is Wildside in San Francisco.
Before Gossip Grill, there was The Flame in San Diego that closed in the early 2000's.
“It's having a safe space that gives a sense of belonging, a sense of community that is so incredibly important,” said Girton.
As you drive down University Avenue there are several gay bars that surround Gossip Grill.
Girton says it comes with equality, women are paid less, and some are mothers.
“Men go out more. It's a fact that men make more money plus women have families and children they have to tend to, and a lot of gay men don't,” said Girton.
Street says another factor is that the gay community is more welcomed in straight spaces.
“The gay community is more accepted in certain cities, therefore, there is less of a need for those spaces,” said Street.
The pandemic didn't make it easy. In 2020 and 2021, The Human Rights Campaign created the “Queer to Stay: An LGBTQ+ Business Preservation Initiative”.
Gossip Grill was one of the recipients and the Lesbian Bar Project created a documentary and crowdfunded more than $250,000 to help the surviving lesbian bars and pops ups.
“This is really going to help us get back on our feet and dig us out of our hole because we have a big hole,” said Girton.
There’s still more work to do and straight allies can help.
“To support means to come out, support means to engage, to support is to make others aware that this place exists,” said Jackson.
Girton has pledged to keep Gossip Grill home.
“l’ll do everything in my power to make sure this space stays here and remains a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and the women’s community,” said Girton
During the pandemic Girton also opened Barrel & Board, a woman-forward restaurant, wine bar and event space one block west and across the street from Gossip Grill.
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