We got an email just this week from Brian McConnell, one of the founders of the infamous Guerrilla Queer Bar which many remember fondly from the dot-com days. Now someone's copying the idea, except with a business plan and investors, and he's pissed.
Back in the late 90's and early aughts, it was a novel, slightly provocative thing to invade a traditionally straight bar as a bunch of LGBTQ people, and the events got plenty of local press and spawned "chapters" across the country. Just recently the concept's been revived by McConnell and friends under the name Pop-Up Gay Bar, which last week encouraged a gaggle of homos to invade the Tonga Room to kick of Folsom Street Fair weekend. McConnell is incensed, now, however, because he's learned that a for-profit startup based on the East Coast called The Welcoming Committee is using the same concept and going around, city to city, collecting kickbacks from bars by bringing groups of queer people there. And they're coming to S.F. next month.
Per The Welcoming Committee website, "We're in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC today, and we're launching in San Francisco (and Atlanta and Chicago) in October 2014." They encourage those interested to sign up with them here to learn more details, and they say they've been bringing "hundreds" of LGBTQ to traditionally hetero spots in those first three cities where they've launched. Also, they sell t-shirts with their pineapple/shield logo, and one that says "Mandatory Hugs." (Ugh.) But what gives with them stealing Guerrilla Queer Bar's thunder, and even blatantly co-opting the GQB name when they launched their business in Boston?
To be fair, Guerrilla Queer Bar ceased to be a thing in S.F. for about a decade, despite having inspired others to launch their own straight-bar-takeovers under that name in multiple cities like Austin, Denver, D.C. and Portland, Maine under the same name. And other various Facebook groups that have done similar bar-takeovers in the interim. But McConnell says he is "NOT pleased" about the for-profit angle, saying, "Apparently they have investors and are organizing events where they get a cut from the bars. It's about as polar opposite to what we do as you can get."
And, he adds, "If you needed another data point that its 1999 again, there you go."