It was just before 11:30 on a sultry Saturday night when we rolled up to Shakers, D.C.’s new queer bar on the scene, to find a line snaking up Ninth Street.
We weren’t mad about the brief wait, but rather glad to see so many folks out enthusiastically, safely getting their life, packing bars, clubs, and restaurants up and down the U Street Corridor.
The buzz of late-summer sexiness circulated among throngs pouring into nearby Kiki, Nellie’s, and the Dirty Goose, and crowding into every straight-catering spot along the strip.
Knowing what nightlife looked like two and three summers ago, it appears going out has made a fierce comeback — which might not be true in every U.S. city.
“I think D.C. is kind of unique,” says Shakers co-owner Justin Parker. “I feel during the pandemic, and as it was winding down, across the country we kind of saw in other cities there were spots that were closing. I feel D.C. saw the LGBTQ bar scene [expand] — I mean, we’ve had, what, four or five spots added within the last 2 to 3 years.”
Daniel Honeycutt, Parker’s partner in life and raising their one-year-old baby, as well as running both Shakers and the Dirty Goose, agrees that while, nationally, LGBTQ spaces “are really struggling, and we continue to see them struggle…post-pandemic,” that the Capital has been bucking the trend. “It just seems like D.C. is hopefully headed in the right direction, where we have more spaces available for us.”
Shakers — located in the single-floor space formerly occupied by Whitlow’s — sprawls temptingly from a front bar area with a cozy dance floor and stage, back through a well-lit lounge into a rear patio, all of which were comfortably crowded as I swirled through sipping a tasty Mezcal margarita.
Elsewhere, but not too far away, Beyoncé was wrapping up that night’s Renaissance World Tour gig, so, of course, DJ Glen Coco kept Bey in rotation, and the dance floor on their toes.
An excited roar went up for “America Has a Problem,” and queens jumped onstage to let everybody know, “You won’t break my soul,” but the dance floor really threw down to Tiësto and Charli’s “Hot in It.” Proof there’s room for every queen at the club.
And it was hot to revel with the diverse crowd, from dancing twinks and pre-gaming Kiki daddies, Howard and Gallaudet queers to tourists, and, later in the night, the bedazzled Beyhive rolling in dripped in merch and full of tales to tell.
Three voluminous rooms of strangers felt like one party — and that’s part of the concept of Shakers, which also will include nights for drag entertainers, cabaret, industry movie nights, and space for community meetings and family days.
“I think people five, eight years ago were questioning, do we actually need gay bars anymore,” Honeycutt says. “And I feel like, where you sit today, the resounding answer is, ‘Yeah, yeah, we need LGBT, queer spaces that are community.’ It’s more than just a place where you drink.”
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