Metro Weekly

Town Forum: The Community Reflects on Town’s Legacy and Closing

We asked Town's patrons and employees, past and present, what Town meant to them, as well as to recount their best memories

Pride at Town with Tatianna and Boomer Banks — Photo: Ward Morrison

What has Town meant to you personally?

Ed Ault, 41, manager: After managing the different events, shows, and decor installations at VelvetNation, it has been incredibly thrilling to create memorable experiences at a smaller, more intimate venue. Town really allowed me to interact with individuals and learn how they wanted to have fun. I’m moving on with a sense of pride and fulfillment which will never fade.

BacK2bACk (Bill Keart and Alan Chasan)DJs: A place to play for thousands of people and have the parties of a lifetime. Town has always been a place of total acceptance and fun, fun, fun.

John Boushka, 74, patron: It was my favorite disco. The audience or crowd tended to be diverse but was proportionally representative of the DC gay community, more so than any other bar, as it was intended as a melting pot.

Destiny B. Childs, 40, drag performer: Town was a place to go to just have fun! You could always count on the staff and management to ensure your evening was enjoyable and safe. Being one of the original cast members for the drag show was an honor and an experience I will never forget. To be able to have a place of that magnitude to go to showcase my talents and to be able to entertain the community was fantastic. The “kids” that would come to watch the show would scream, cheer, and dance along with the queens.

Cici, 22, patron: Town, to me, has always meant freedom of expression. It was a place where I could walk in and unequivocally be myself in front of total strangers and not be judged. I no longer had to have on the daily mask I must have when the world isn’t ready to accept me as I am. When I entered Town, my soul was set on fire and I once again gained the strength to face whatever was outside those doors. I’ll miss it so much, but I will carry my memories with me forever.

Dvonne, 34, DJ: Town was the first major club I’ve played as a DJ. They gave us [CTRL] the freedom to develop our party in whichever way we saw fit. They welcomed us into their family with open arms, and I’m forever grateful for that.

Town Danceboutique — Photo: Randy Shulman

Sterling Higgins, 40, Event Promoter: The club was always willing to provide space for queer women’s events such as HER HRC and our farewell Queertopia event. The owner and management team were so friendly, professional, and responsive. The most amazing thing about Town was how it felt to be there. Over the years the area has changed to be safer, cleaner, and more accessible. When Town opened it was nested in a transitioning part of D.C. Once you stepped into the club there was a welcoming feeling of inclusivity that made everyone want to be there. As a queer woman, I never felt discriminated against or uncomfortable. I always felt like everyone was welcome.

Shi-Queeta Lee, 53, drag performer: Town has meant everything to me — a safe space to work and play. Town has given me chance to be on America’s Got Talent, to be the first drag queen to perform at White House, to host my own show at the Howard Theatre, Bethesda Jazz & Blues, the John F. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, and now owning Queeta’s Palace. It was a learning experience to build my own brand.

Danny Linden, 59, patron: I frequented Town most often on Fridays for Bear Happy Hour. For a long time, Town felt like walking into “Cheers” because almost EVERYONE you knew was either there, or, would be there soon.

Raja at Town — Photo: Ward Morrison

Karie, 27, one-time visitor: It was the first place I’ve ever been to and been “out,” and that was a wonderful feeling.

Philip Pannell, 67, patron: I fondly remember going to Town for various political events for both the LGBT community and the city at large. I was thrilled that Mayor Bowser held her campaign victory party there on June 19. What a sweet gesture.

Lt. Brett Parson, 50, patron: It’s been a thrill to watch Town’s business grow and become a landmark in the community. The owners, management, and most importantly, staff have made Town a uniquely D.C. place to go — with large crowds, loud music, and carefree fun, all in a clean, safe, and accepting space. Town welcomed everyone and provided a small respite from the outside world.

Rayceen Pendarvis, 68, patron: It’s been a place to meet new people, network, and see fantastic drag shows.

Alexa Rodriguez, 41, patron: Town represented the opportunity to be yourself, the opportunity to create a career as a drag performer, and a safer space for LGBTQ communities, a space for organizations to raise funds, and a welcoming space for all ages.

WTF — Photo: Randy Shulman

Kevin Rowe, 35, bartender: I have been at Town since the beginning, and it has been more than just a job for me. The people I have worked with and met through my time there have become some of my best friends. I am sad to see it go — it’s probably the only way they could ever get rid of me.

Josh Schonewolf, 37, promoter: I emceed a monthly show at Town for over two years. It really taught me how to be a legit burlesque performer. I suffered from severe stage fright in my hometown of Philadelphia, but with the love and support I received from the audience, staff, and drag queens backstage, I am the performer I am today, thanks to Town.

Charger Stone, 38, promoter: I started working at Town as a barback the second weekend it was open in November, 2007. Worked there for almost a year. I came back in August of 2009 as a promoter for Bear Happy Hour. I met my husband during Bear Happy Hour at Town. We got engaged in front of the entire BHH crowd after a spectacular contemporary dance routine developed by Derek Brown to David Guetta’s “Without You.” Town, its owners and staff, have become family to me. I’m going to miss it immensely.

Tatianna, 30, drag performer: To me, Town has always meant family! I essentially grew up at Town, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without everyone there. Being able to be a part of of the Town family is something I feel grateful for and something I won’t ever forget.

White Party at Town — Photo: Ward Morrison

TWiN (Kurt Graves), 34, DJ: I remember the first time I was asked to DJ at Town in 2012. As an up-and-coming DJ at the time, that was a huge deal for me. I’ll never forget that feeling of excitement. Becoming a regular DJ at Town really helped me solidify my name as a serious DJ in D.C. Sometimes in life we only need to be given a chance and I am extremely humble and grateful that Town took a chance with me.

Robert York, 50, patron: Town has been a vibrant part of the LGBT community since the doors opened. Ed, Chachi, John, Ann and Dougie have always opened the doors to the community. We have been able to celebrate crowning moments, charity events, birthdays, and we were able to celebrate life for dear friends no longer with us. When the community was grieving after Orlando Pulse, Town opened its doors to provide a safe place for people to gather for comfort, as well as raise money for our Orlando brothers, sisters and families that needed the support.

What do you think Town has meant to the local LGBTQ community-at-large?

Ault: Despite the ease of meeting people online or through apps, there will always be a need to have a place where a person can feel safe and free to explore their sexuality. We worked hard to maintain that environment and allowed people to let their hair down in public.

BacK2bACk: It’s been a gathering place, a refuge, a place to shed all the cares of the world and be yourself. We believe it’s been far more than many realize, and it will be missed terribly.

Childs: Town gave the younger generation not old enough to drink a place to go when not many clubs in D.C. would allow someone 18 to 20 years old.

Raja at Town — Photo: Ward Morrison

Cici: Town has meant everything to our community. It has been so many people’s first club night, first public showing after coming out, someone’s first drag show. Town was open to everyone and made everyone feel welcome. It’s a place we will mourn like losing a family member.

Linden: For many it was a comfortable and fun home. And because of the club’s layout, one could have more quiet, thoughtful interactions. It facilitated reunion, a scheduled gathering when many of us were most elated about being a DMV resident during the Obama Administration. And then later I certainly cried in my beer with friends who gathered there at Town to process and discuss (and seek refuge) from recent political changes.

Karie: It’s a shame it’s being closed just so another apartment building can be built. D.C. needs more places like Town, not expensive apartments.

Stone: Over the years it’s brought in talent that no other gay establishment in the city would have been capable of bringing in. They have provided employment for hundreds of people while giving tens of thousands more some of the greatest gay experiences of their lives. For those young men and women 18+ it’s one of the only places they can really experience what is out there. It was an eye-opener for them.

Zar, 32, patron: Town has been a mainstay in the LGBTQ community — and it’s located next to the best place for pizza.

Please share your fondest memory of Town.

BacK2bACk: From the performances, to the nights the crowds went nuts, Town is a compendium of favorites: The screams when dancers recognized your mix, the adoring applause of fans cheering on the amazing drag queens, the generosity of spirit throughout the club.

Boushka: One of my favorites was the recreation of Tracks, which was the best nightclub D.C. has ever had. I also did go to Velvet Nation, which preceded Town. Both were displaced by Nationals Park (but I go to Nats games so I can’t complain).

Childs: I will never forget the night the drag cast along with Derek and the Town dancers did the number from Hairspray, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” We rehearsed for a very long time and the night finally came. It was a packed house and the place went crazy!

Cherry Royalty with DJ Ivan Gomez — Photo: Ward Morrison

Cici: I loved when a few weeks ago, when I went up on stage for our [group] photo, all of my friends cheered so loud it was like I had my own fanclub. In that moment, I felt like I was home.

DrewG, 35, DJ: Many many moons ago when I was just a young DJ starting out, I was working for a liquor brand and had a meeting at Town. On the way out I remember smiling and shaking Ed Bailey’s hand and saying to him, “You know, one day I’m gonna be one of your resident DJs.” He smiled and giggled a tad — it was a ballsy comment on my end, so I don’t blame him. Little did I know that not only would I actually become a resident, but Ed would become more of a father to me than my own.

DVONNE: Some of my favorite memories from Town come from participating in the sketch comedy show CRACK put on by Shea Van Horn, Chris Farris, and Karl Jones. The work and creativity put into those shows has been and will forever be truly inspiring.

Linden: The Tracks Reunion in April 2013 when I danced nonstop for three hours. The evening was joyous, a truly transcendent experience — so much so in fact, that I later hired three of the reunion’s DJs — DJ Mykael (Tim Sheehan) DJ Dub (James David Graham) and Michele Miruski — for Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend dances at the 9:30 Club.

WTF — Photo: Randy Shulman

Karie: It was my first time at a club (gay or otherwise) in June 2016, and it was a blast. I met some cool people and I even DANCED WITH A GIRL! I almost got my first kiss, but was too shy/awkward to let her kiss me (Maria, maybe we’ll meet again). I’m sad I never got to go back. It was such a fun place, and a night I’ll never forget.

Rodriguez: La Fiesta from the GLBT History Project every year since 2011.

Stone: The owners gave us the space to use so that we could also get married on a Sunday afternoon in September, 2013. We had the ceremony downstairs and decorated the upstairs for the reception. We had 90 of our closest friends there. I sang a song to my husband, and he had one of our friends write a song specifically for me.

Tatianna: All of the New Years and Pride celebrations. The energy was always amazing and you could really see all of the people who really loved this place.

Zar: I have three. Attending the annual CAGLCC Mega Networking Events, going to a Tracks Reunion event several years ago, and having a private reception at Town in June for Team Rayceen volunteers, performers from The Ask Rayceen Show, and fans of Rayceen Pendarvis.

DrewG: The team behind Town is full of geniuses, and I have a feeling we’ll all be together again someday soon.

VelvetNation reunion at Town — Photo: Ward Morrison

What local LGBTQ bars will you frequent after Town closes?

BacK2bACk: The ones we still play music and video in. And some of the ones who have extended offers to us!

Childs: Freddie’s Beach Bar, Pitchers, and Cobalt. Those three are truly the only places left that are not only there for profit, but always there for the community. David Perruzza, Freddie Lutz, and Brian Blanchard always open their doors for D.C. organizations and allow them to take over and have a successful night. Without community members like them, the D.C. non-profit organizations would not be able to help our community as they do.

DVONNE: I go to Trade very often, as I DJ there and live nearby. Otherwise I mostly attend queer parties like TNX and raves out in warehouses.

Lee: Queeta’s Palace at Chateau Remix. I now own my own pop-up bar/restaurant!

Rowe: Number Nine is my most frequented bar, followed by Trade. I have a lot of friends who work at both bars.

WTF — Photo: Randy Shulman

Stone: We’ve become very fond of Trade and Uproar the past couple years. We are also moving Bear Happy Hour over to Uproar, so it’s going to be our go-to now that Town is closed.

TWiN: Flashy Sundays, of course! It’s one of the best parties in D.C.

Tatianna: I will probably be going to Cobalt a lot because I have so many friends that work there.

Linden: I’m a creature of habit and convenience so neighborhood bars like Trade and Green Lantern are easily accessible. And, of course, there’s the legendary DC Eagle. As long as there are happy, friendly people somewhere, I’ll make an effort to get there. That said, I don’t go out as often as I once did, but the appeal of any bar and nightclub is in the people, our laughs, and, of course, a strong cocktail.

Randy Shulman is Metro Weekly's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached at rshulman@metroweekly.com.

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