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Culture and Identity

LGTBQ+ residents of the Central Coast push for queer-centric nightlife

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Courtesy of Shari Rubino, Skipper's Brew
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Skipper's Brew in San Luis Obispo is one of the few queer-centric spaces in the city.

For decades, gay bars have been a safe haven and communal place for the LGBTQ+ community to come together. But even as much of society moves toward more acceptance and inclusivity, queer-specific spaces can still be hard to find, and the Central Coast is no exception.

While four locations in San Luis Obispo pop up on Yelp when conducting a simple search for "gay bays and clubs," the reality is there are no centralized late-night establishments that cater strictly to the growing LGBTQ+ community.

Melody Klemin, founder of the Central Coast LGBTQ+ website Queer SLO, said there are only two main queer-dedicated groups in the city. One is a queer-owned coffee shop called Skipper’s Brew.

“I feel like the only organization right now trying to cultivate or build community is the GALA Pride and Diversity Center, and Skipper’s Brew. And beyond that, there’s not a lot happening in the city of San Luis Obispo,” Klemin said.

The lack of gay bars in SLO has pushed many to look outside of the area for an inclusive nightlife or take matters into their own hands.

Karen Pike, co-founder of Skipper’s Brew, said she’d like to expand the shop into a more queer-dedicated space.

“We want a second location here and slow and and to have that to have the beer and wine license so we can still be all age welcoming, but also have nighttime nightlife for people of age who want to come out, have a drink and have it it's there's more of a need in rural parts of San Luis Obispo,” Pike said.

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Matt Klepfer/SLO Queer Crowd
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An LGBTQ+ demonstration brought queer people and their allies to Downtown SLO.

Skipper’s Brew co-founder Shari Rubino agrees.

“There still needs to be an outward presence. I think we still need to be able to go somewhere and still be with with your people, if you will, you know. You're talking to women that are pushing their 50’s. Back in our day, we had clubs to go to and there was so much nightlife to go to where you get to socialize and actually be comfortable and be with your own people,” Rubino said.

“I still think there's a need for that because at the end of the day, we got what we asked for. We're in the mainstream of community and we don't need we don't need to go to a gay bar to actually meet people, but we still want It.”

Outside of SLO County, the once lively gay club scene in Santa Barbara once boasted up six gay bars, according to locals who have lived there since the 1970s. But that slowly dwindled, until virtually all queer-specific nightlife was gone.

Central Coast resident Tim Barrera said such a place is desperately needed across the region.

“I would say it's almost non-existent. I never had that when I was a kid. I already knew how different I was from my classmates, but I didn't have any public figures that I would look at, or even like, around my community that I would just look at and be like, well, they're this way. It's like, I can be that way. So definitely like with the youth, when they see adults probably being who they are, gives them the confidence. So visibility, you know, definitely is needed. You know, anything that is like queer is just needed in this county period,” Barrera said.

Resources for queer residents of SLO County are available online at Gala Pride and Diversity Center’s website, galacc.org.

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