Ten years ago, two friends, Karen Diehl and Melissa May, decided to provide a different type of party space for the lesbian and queer women’s community.
They heard the chatter of women wanting a space with the luxury to lounge, talk, and dance. With this in mind, the Ladies of LURe created a weekly event with a variety of entertainment, dancers, and multiple DJs.
After a few years, both Diehl and May felt the pressure of balancing their careers and hosting a weekly event. In 2009, they decided to re-brand and re-engergize with a new monthly party called BARE. The party eventually found a new home at Cobalt, located in Washington, D.C.
“The initial reason we decided to call it BARE was because we wanted to create a space where women felt safe and comfortable enough to be themselves,” says Diehl. “While BARE may be a ‘women’s party’, we always welcome all walks of life to party with us as long as they are respectful and courteous.”
Eventually, May would go on to switch careers and move to California. Realizing the success behind having a team, Diehl reached out to her friend Sterling Higgins to be her “new partner in crime.”
Tagg had an opportunity to sit down with Diehl and Higgins to discuss the success of their monthly party and the future of the lesbian and queer women’s community.
What is your favorite thing about hosting BARE?
Diehl: Favorite thing? Sterling may agree with me here, but I would have to say the people, and the memories that are created. We get emails from time to time [from people] telling us about how they met their wife at one of our first events. We’ve also had people come from other countries telling us how amazing the D.C. lesbian scene is after just one night with us. It’s not only humbling, but it reminds us why we do this. Sometimes when you are the producer and promoter in this scene, you rarely get to see the fruit from your labor. Those special moments are what make this event memorable for us. We don’t always see the impact we have, but just sometimes we get to see it.
You have the longest running lesbian/queer women’s event in D.C. What do you think is the reason for the success and longevity of the event?
Higgins: Our success is a mixture of our partnerships in the community and our dedicated team. We have the best staff of DJs, bartenders, dancers, lighting crew, bar backs, door staff, photographers, club general managers, and security team. Most of our staff have been with us from the beginning of BARE. We have [striven] to be a community partner and not just an event location. We have been fortunate to develop long lasting and meaningful partnerships with wonderful organizations that have supported us as we have supported them. By design, we strive to always look for ways to be dynamic and often we try and incorporate the feedback and suggestions we receive about our events. We feel that there is always room to improve and grow. We’re proud that we’ve been able to continuously provide a safe place for women to connect and that the community trusts us to provide that safe space for women.
What would people be surprised to know about your monthly party?
Diehl: We try to stay in the background. We want to make sure that the event runs smoothly, and if there are any issues, we just try to handle them without the crowd knowing there is an issue.
Higgins: Also, on a regular basis we’re donating to a variety of charities we work with year after year that support and do good work in the queer community.
What other events does LURe do throughout the year?
Diehl: We team up with other organizations to co-promote events. We are also looking into adding some events in the near future. Stay tuned! We try to support or get the word out about other events happening in the city even if we aren’t involved. If it’s a safe space, and a good time, we will encourage our crowd to attend.
Higgins: We’re also involved in some upcoming events such as Her HRC and the Capital Pride women’s events.
Where do you personally see yourself in five years?
Diehl: Hmm…I suppose that depends on what happens in the next four or five years. This incoming administration terrifies me, so I think my plans and ideas have changed over the past few months.
Higgins: Recently I finished my MBA, so I’m looking to utilize my business background to further LURe DC’s business success.
Where do you see the D.C. lesbian community in five years?
Diehl: That’s a tough one to answer. I believe that D.C. has one of the most unique gay scenes in the United States. Most large cities have become rather accepting of the gay community, and don’t necessarily need the sanctuary we once needed. We used to go to gay clubs in order to feel safe, see people like us, and let our guard down a little bit. I thought times had changed, and I almost thought it was an end of an era. Look at D.C. for example, how many clubs have we lost just to low turn-outs, or people just going to straight bars? While times are progressing, which is good, my fear is that we are going to need these safe havens again. The jury is still out on where the D.C. scene will land.
Anything else you want us to know?
Higgins: We’d like to thank the community for their support. Without it we would be nothing and with it we’ve been able to do so much.
BARE’s eighth year anniversary takes place Saturday, January 21 at Cobalt, 1638 R Street NW, Washington, D.C. Fore more information, click here.