Lina Nicolai is the co-owner of Al Crostino in Washington, D.C. And now the 33-year-old is the proud owner of XX+, one of D.C.’s newest lesbian bars.
What was once Al Crostino’s event space on the top floor of the restaurant has transformed into a LGBTQ women’s bar and lounge. The intimate space, with couches and a pool table, is a comfortable setting with a local bar feel. The art gallery showcasing queer artists highlights the diversity of the space.
Nicolai has added two dynamic women to her team. Nigerian native Tasha is lending her expertise as the Social Director, and Chef KB has put together an exclusive menu for XX+ clientele.
“They have put their heart and soul in seeing this vision come together and making sure this is a people of color–inclusive space,” Nicolai says.
The new venue will open tentatively Wednesdays through Sundays with a special, once a month industry night on Mondays.
We spoke with Nicolai about her vision and the need for a space for LGBTQ women.
What made you want to open a lesbian and queer women’s bar and lounge?
I’ve always wanted to open a queer bar and lounge since I was in my early 20s. I wanted a place that felt comfortable, as well as a little fancy.
How did you come up with the name?
I came up with the name based on the fact that I wanted to honor my mother. When she first decided to open a restaurant, she asked me if I would join her in this new adventure. I quit all my jobs—and yes I had several. I turned to her and said, “Yes, I believe in you.” When I approached her about opening a queer lounge upstairs, she smiled, and replied “I believe in you.” The restaurant industry like many other industries are male dominated so we are proud of how far we’ve come. So the XX personally represents my mom, a straight, cis woman, and the + represents all the knowledge that I’ve learned growing up in Washington, D.C. about how being a womxn goes beyond chromosomes and social constructs. The + stands for our community, which includes us as queer womxn and everyone in the LBGTQAI+ community.
How would you describe XX+?
It’s a safe space for our community. It’s a lounge that also hosts events, such as karaoke, DJ sets, live music, meet-ups, wine tastings, etc.
What is your vision?
Our vision is for it to feel like your home away from home. I really want a place that people enjoy being a part of.
What do you hope the community gets from XX+?
Whether you’re coming to find your next U-Haul, make new connections, let loose, or just hang out, the XX+ has what you need.
XX+’s grand opening is Sunday, July 22. The opening night will have a $20 cover, which includes a glass of champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres. The cover will help with the “grassroots effort” put into the space. There is no cover charge on regular nights. XX+ is located at 1926 9th St. NW above Al Crostino.