DENVER — A nationwide campaign is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure not one more lesbian bar closes its doors due to financial struggles incurred because of the pandemic.
In Colorado, there's only one: Denver's Blush & Blu on Colfax Avenue, and it's not your typical lesbian bar.
"Times have changed, and the clientele has changed, and the queer generation has changed," owner Jody Bouffard said.
Over the years, her bar and cafe has become a safe haven for all kinds of people.
"The whole LGBTQ queer community, the whole Rainbow Mafia," Bouffard said.
To say it's grown since she opened it in 2005 is an understatement. It was about 800 square feet then.
Now, it's more than 2,000 square feet with three levels, providing enough room for everyone to feel welcomed.
"It's where I met all my friends. It's where I learned not just that I can be myself, but what myself is," said Lo, a customer.
But the bar is in a class of its own. It's the only remaining so-called lesbian bar in Colorado and one of fewer than two dozen in the country.
"I can't believe it, to be honest, because I worked in the lesbian bar scene [in Denver] since '96, and when I got here, there were five lesbian bars. To watch them slowly disappear over the years until I was the last remaining one is a little bit, you know, mind-blowing," Bouffard said.
A changing clientele and a supportive community may be what's keeping her bar running.
"Over the course of the last ten years, rents have only gone up and up and up, and lesbians have the least amount of disposable income in order to go out and party," Bouffard said.
The need to keep places like these open has never been greater. That's why last year, a campaign called Lesbian Bar Project raised more than $100,000 at a time when these bars were struggling to pay the rent.
"Without space, we lack community, we lack intergenerational dialog and we lack a space where we can be our authentic selves," co-director Erica Rose said.
Now, the goal this Pride month is to raise more than $200,000 to help these bars as they come out of the pandemic.
"I wouldn't have been able to keep my doors open because they came in at just the right time in order to help me keep being able to pay the bills and the rent for this place," Bouffard said.
As one of the last of its kind for an underserved community, Bouffard plans to keep this place open for years to come. as long as there's a need and support.
"In order for these queer spaces to thrive and survive, it takes the village to come out and support it," she said.
You can learn more about the Lesbian Bar Project and how to donate here.