Grand Central: The DC Bar, located in New-Detroit
by Ann Marie and Liz
Grand Central experienced some impromptu remodeling on Monday night, when the driver of a stolen car crashed in to its south-side wall. The driver also managed to smash into a truck carrying drums of white paint, splashing it all over the sidewalk and side of the building. Fortunately, no one was injured, but Baltimore did become a little more enlightened about something that the queer community may have already realized: Grand Central is kind of awful.
For those of us who have frequented Grand Central in the past, it’s hard to deny that this is a bar that aims to draw in a certain type of gay crowd. After spending a few weekends exploring the three different areas in this “entertainment complex” – The Pub, the Discotheque, and Sappho’s – you begin to notice a few things:
- Central’s drinks are overpriced, they charge a cover, and have a coat check. This leads me to believe that, somehow, they must think they’re located in DC.
- If you’re not a cisgender (staff edit: for those wondering), white gay man, you will probably not get quick service at the bar in either the Pub area or the Discotheque area. Lots of transphobic, racist, and sexist vibes going down here. But the upside is… well… I guess you can hang out with other transphobic, racist, sexist folks?
- Sappho’s, Central’s answer to the lesbian bar, is tolerable only because it’s the only one of its kind in the gayborhood. Simply the same service and culture as their downstairs counterparts, instead catering to lesbians.
Basically, if you’re a well-off, well-dressed cisgender gay man or lesbian, Grand Central wants YOU. If you’re not – well, they’ll take your money.
After the car crashed into the side of Central, Baltimore Sun interviewed Don Davis, the bar’s owner, who currently resides in Florida (far away from Baltimore, his bar, and its customers). If there were still any doubt where the aforementioned vibe comes from in this club, maybe we should take a look at what he told the Baltimore Sun, post-crash:
The neighborhood has been going downhill, is now home to parties at other clubs that draw rowdy crowds, and his clientele no longer feel safe, Davis said.
“People are scared to come out. They can’t find parking and they don’t want to get mugged,” he said.
After 22 years owning Grand Central, this may be the last straw, he said.
“We’re going to get it fixed, but I’m not sure what I’m doing after that,” Davis said. “I might sell the place. I’m tired of the whole city.”
Also, originally published, but removed because “editors thought the line lacked context,” were these two lines:
Maybe he’ll sell to a KFC, he said.
I’m tired of the whole city. In a couple years it’s going to be Detroit.
I don’t think these lines lack context at all. I think that they fit perfectly into the context that Davis is afraid that his neighborhood is “going downhill,” that there are “rowdy crowds” at other clubs, that his clientele don’t “feel safe.” At best, the context is ignorant. At worst, overtly racist. This is the platform that Central has been operating on for years, and many of the reasons why a lot of people of color, queer, and trans* folks are no longer GC patrons.
You’re right, Mr. Davis. I think it is time to sell the place. I think that an awesome queer club, gay-friendly restaurant, or welcoming bar can open up in its place. A place where a trans* woman won’t be asked to pay a men’s cover charge. A place where different-sex queer couples can hang out without feeling ostracized. A place where queer folks of any race can flirt, dance, and drink a beer together. Believe it or not, Baltimore is ready for that place, even if you aren’t.
Ann Marie and Liz are both queer Queers living in the city of Baltimore, forever searching for a gay bar that isn’t awful. You can follow them on Twitter at @annmariebrok and @lizrawr, respectfully.