I’m a cubbyhoe. There, I said it. It only took a few hours and a couple of cheap margaritas, but look at me now: longing for Cubbyhole, declaring her the best (queer women’s bar) I’ve ever had and begging, pleading her for more.
It was Priday (the Friday before WorldPride), and I’d spent most of the day wandering around the Village. The streets were swarming with queer folks, and I’d embarked on a one-woman Dykewatch. Aside from a handful of couples, there were barely any queer women around town. I was pretty perplexed by this until I strolled down West 4th Street and realised that every lez in Manhattan was standing in or around Cubbyhole.
I approached the bar’s green facade like a tourist laying eyes on Times Square for the first time. Open-mouthed, I giddily snapped the exteriors and the long line of dykes flanking the venue.
Once inside—the queue takes a while—I was struck by how kind and accommodating everyone was. As I made my way to the bar, people made room for me, they welcomed and greeted me; I felt like Rose walking around in the end scene of the Titanic [P.S. I just watched said scene on YouTube and cried. The post-Pride week-long hangover is legit].
This is the beauty of a long-standing community queer bar: the space is respected by the patrons, the patrons are respected by the staff, and everyone is happy to see new faces enter their second home.
Another upside to having a permanent space is that some of the negativity that can be associated with queer women’s parties evaporates. No one is leading with their ego, rushing to dance with the hottie, and desperate to present their best selves on the one night a month they’re in a room of women. Cubby has been standing for 25 years and is going absolutely nowhere. It has always been run by queer women and attracts masses of them every night of the week. This is a dykonic bar, one that encourages people to stay grounded, chill, chat, hook-up, or get lit (courtesy of very cheap drinks, generously poured spirits, and regular free shot hand-outs).
The tunes are delivered by a jukebox, so people will be thrashing to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” at one moment, thrusting to Lizzo’s “Juice” at another, then shoulder-shimmying to Prince’s “Kiss” minutes later.
I spoke about gender identity with a non-binary filmmaker, about rental prices in Park Slope with a photographer from Singapore, and chatted with a woman from Honduras who’s hosting a fundraiser at Cubby (on July 13th) to build a school in her country of origin. I also played “guess who’s gay” with two straight Turkish women who’d escorted their lez-pal to Cubby. My answer: every woman’s a lesbian at heart.
Maybe it’s because I hadn’t seen a queer woman all day, maybe there’s something in the air at the Cubs, but I felt like everyone around me was exceptionally hot. That said, I spoke with another person who didn’t consider anyone to be their type but said, “That’s the joy of Cubbyhole, even if you don’t find anyone attractive, the ceiling is always the most beautiful thing in here.” And yes, they are probably right. The bar’s legendary interiors easily win the award for the most random ceiling design in the city. There are kites, a skeleton, cows, windmills, Christmas decorations, Chinese lanterns, grapevines, and beachballs hanging overhead. There’s also an impressive hand-painted mural on the wall, the lighting and temperature are good, and the venue smells fresh and clean. The Cubbyhole is a nurtured and cherished space.
I left at midnight; I had another Pride party to dash to. As I headed out, I had a little read of the cut-outs on the front door. Writers from GO, The New Yorker, Fodors and Time-Out each declared this the best lesbian bar in the world or one of the top LGBTQ+ spots in the States. Next to this is a little dedication to the bar’s founder, Tanya Saunders. It’s an ode to the life and love she poured into her venue. Though she died in April last year, you can still feel everything she gave this space. It is such a wonderful legacy to leave behind.
I turned back to the bar, had a final gawp at all the hot dykes in the queue, then headed off into the night—another loud’n’proud cubbyhoe ready to tear up the city.