The Wildrose, Seattle’s only lesbian bar, will celebrate its 30th birthday on New Year’s Eve.
In 1984, Bryher Herak and four other women decided to open a lesbian bar with windows and light.
“At that time it was very closeted…it was mostly going into alleys, knowing about it word-of-mouth, because of the culture,” Herak said. “So we made a conscious decision, we would buy a place with windows, we were gonna buy a place with light, we were gonna buy a place that has a kitchen, and we are going to say we are a women’s bar.”
On opening night, there was a line around the block.
“People wanted so bad to have a place like the Rose open, it was just such a naked celebration,” Herak said.
This year, the bar’s birthday will be celebrated with DJs, burlesque dancers and a Champagne toast at midnight.
Times have changed since the opening of the Widrose, including the passing of gay marriage and electing a gay mayor along with lesbian subculture. Now, Martha Manning and Shelley Brothers own the bar. The first thing they did was remove Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls from the jukebox.
“I think lesbians thought they had to listen to that stuff, that they had to listen to one genre of music, the singer-songwriter type of stuff,” Brothers said.
They have also taken away the “women-only” rule.
“We’ve been fighting discrimination all our lives,” Brothers said. “Why should we turn around and discriminate against someone else, as long as someone is acting OK?”
“The trend in the country is…there’s more assimilation,” Herak said. “There’s probably at least an illusion that we don’t need our own places so much.”
Though the price of real estate in Captiol Hill is increasing, Manning and Brothers think the Rose will prevail.
“Every bar evolves and changes over time,” Brothers said. “But I don’t see why it would need to go away. There’s always gonna be a need for a place where people can get together and feel safe, and that’s what we try to offer.”