This major US city is getting three fabulous new gay bars

Licht Cafe
Licht Cafe (Photo: Spencer Hurd)

Tired of reading about LGBTQ venues shuttering? Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. Things are looking up for 2022 with new gay bars opening left and right. GayCities has recently reported on the opening of a big, new LGBTQ venue in Kansas City, Fountain Haus, and the launch of Nobody’s Darling in Chicago.

Now, Washington DC is getting in on the action. Not one but two new LGBTQ venues have opened up in DC in the last month, with another on the way.

Licht Café in Washington DC

Licht Cafe in Washington DC
The small but perfectly formed Licht Cafe (Photo: Spencer Hurd)

Licht Café is a cozy, art-filled hideaway off the U Street Corridor. Owner Spencer Hurd spent several years in Germany working for the US Government, before relocating to DC in 2014 for a job with NASA. He returned to the US with a dream: to open a European-inspired gay coffee house and cocktail bar, just like the ones he’d fallen in love with while living in Germany.

Now, after a couple of years of searching for the right venue, he’s turning his dream into a reality.

Licht Café offers a small selection of beers, spirits, and wines, with a rotating menu of cocktails.

Hurd actually started the buildout on Licht back in 2020, but then the pandemic hit, and everything stalled for a good 18 months.

 

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On entering the light and airy space, it’s impossible not to notice the walls rammed with artwork.

“I love art and design,” Hurd told Eater, “and I wanted to make the bar unapologetically gay. We too often step around our unique identities.

“I want these to be a bid edgy—this is a part of gay culture. Yet it’s not offensive; it’s representative.”

Related: Gay bars and clubs in Washington DC

Wanna have a Kiki?

 

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The other arrival in DC is Kiki. It can also be found on U Street, not far from some of DC’s other queer establishments. Owner Keaton Fedak has taken over the premises formerly occupied by Velvet Lounge and Dodge City.

Fedak is well-known on the DC scene He’s the former general manager of the gay bar The Dirty Goose.

Kiki had a soft launch on New Year’s Eve. So far, the former Velvet side has opened with a small bar and dancefloor. The other half, which will offer a sports bar and lounge, is scheduled to open later in the spring. A backyard beer garden is also in the works for when the weather improves.

“We want to create a safe space for the LGBTQ community and offer something a little new DC’s lacking on lately,” Fedak told Eater. “We’re hoping to make a gayborhood in Shaw.”

As You Are bar

Kath Pike and Jo McDaniel outside their new premises
Rach Pike and Jo McDaniel outside their new premises (Photo: Supplied)

If those two new additions to the DC scene weren’t enough, a third is set to join them soon. As You Are Bar, created by Jo McDaniel and Rach Pike, is a queer dance bar and cafe. For much of the last year, it existed as a virtual space as McDaniel and Pike sought a venue and raised the necessary investment.

In November, they signed a lease to take over the premises formerly occupied by District Soul Food and Banana Cafe on 8th Street.

Between them, McDaniel and Pike have over 20 years of experience in the service industry. Both formerly worked at the lesbian bar, A League Of Her Own.

Rach and Jo are currently working on fixing up As You Are
Rach and Jo are currently working on fixing up As You Are (Photo: Supplied)

As You Are (named after the Nirvana song ‘Come As You Are’) will offer a daytime cafe and nighttime lounge on the first floor. Upstairs has more dance space and a backroom with video games.

Again, the bar seeks to embrace all members of the LGBTQ community.

“We want people to show up exactly as who they are and how they identify,” Pike told Washington CityPaper last November. “Can you come as a cis White man? If that’s who you are, that’s how I want you to come. We’ll only take issue if you can’t celebrate and respect everyone else’s identity.”

McDaniel and Pike are currently in the process of applying for all their relevant licenses, and soundproofing the space to ensure they don’t disturb the neighbors. They hope—fingers crossed—to open around March.

As You Are - a new bar hopefully opening soon in Washington DC
As You Are – a new bar hopefully opening soon in Washington DC (Photo: Supplied)