While still a minority within the bev-alc scene, the LGBTQ+ community in the industry is definitely changing for the better. As we turn to new methods of inclusivity, let’s take a look at the key components of what it means to support the LGBTQ+ community in different ways simply through business ownership.
Gay Bars and New Safe Spaces
Surprisingly enough, the amount of gay bars spanning the country has declined since its peak in about 1976. During the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis, gay bars were used as safe havens and symbolized strength and pride within the community. Before cell phones, they were also one of the only places to openly meet other queer people. However, there’s no need to panic about the decline of LGBTQ-specific joints. In the past forty years, the world has become more inclusive, more understanding and more supportive of the queer community. Now, almost every establishment is working their way toward inclusivity, and we no longer have to rely on gay bars being our only safe places to socialize.
When you walk into a new space or try a new activity, one of the most important things is to see your identity represented in a group. The same goes for trying a new bar, restaurant, or even a drink.
The good news is that this is becoming more and more of a reality across the board for a ton of businesses. Establishments are working harder than ever to boost their employee diversity, and data actually shows that diversity is good for business. Even within the queer bar space it’s important to employ a wide array of identities on the spectrum, and not just thin, white, gay, cisgender men as we’ve typically seen in the past. The bottom line is that we’re moving further away from unnecessary workplace discrimination. You’re guaranteed to have patrons who feel more comfortable in your bar or restaurant if you put in the work to represent them and their uniqueness.
I can speak from personal experience as someone who identifies as both transgender and bisexual; it not only makes me feel safer to see another transgender person serving my drinks or taking my order, but it also makes me feel less judged in a space that might otherwise make me feel self-conscious. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the feeling of isolation in a space where no one else looks like you. As we’ve been saying for the past few years, representation matters!
While this topic has become a bit heated over the rise in individuals transitioning, it’s definitely an important discussion to have if you’re looking to improve your establishment's customer experience. One of the simplest moves a restaurant can make to increase their customers’ comfort is to implement all-gender restrooms and remove blatant (and unnecessary) stereotyping. My personal favorite signs are the ones that make fun of even considering splitting up genders: “Whatever Gender, Who Cares”.
Believe it or not, this means more to transgender individuals than just a sign change. It means that we’ll have the utmost comfort in using a public restroom and we won’t have to worry as much for our safety. In a designated “mens” room, oftentimes we have to risk outing ourselves and in that process, we risk being harmed. A single-use restroom or an all-gender restroom provides less judgment and more security for all, and makes our eating experience more pleasurable. It’s the little things that make a true difference.
Building Diversity from Within
Representation of your own identity matters a ton, but what matters equally is seeing all identities represented in some way, shape or form. Diversity has been brought to the forefront of a lot of employers' agendas in recent years as we try to increase each human segment to span the pie chart equally. This means hiring just as many (or more) minorities within your business as the majority. This not only allows your customers to trust you more, but it makes for better business deliverables. A more diverse workforce means more perspectives on issues and different solutions being brought to the table. Going back to the above example on gender inclusion, hiring a member of the LGBTQ+ community might be the move that brings the idea of all-gender restrooms to your attention. Without this hire, you might not have considered this perspective on your own to identify this as a problem and then offer a solution. The increase in trusting customers results in the realization that you’ve removed biases from your hiring process, and more people recognize this than you might realize.
Innovation through Allyship
What are establishments doing now that’s completely new in an effort to promote inclusivity? Businesses are taking the extra leap to ensure both their employees and customers feel welcome. Pronoun pins are a great way to give passersby a way to reference you, and anyone can wear them since everyone has pronouns! Allies and LGBTQ+ community members alike can promote gender inclusivity with just this small move.
Another one that might seem like an obvious one: celebrating pride month is a form of showing your support and acceptance each year. As a business, it’s important to recognize any holidays/months that you can in support of various minority communities. It’s better to be seen as the bar that loves and welcomes everyone than the bar that does nothing for any holiday. Turn on the festivity and celebrate your customers and employees!
To that point, we should be celebrating and supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community year round. Another way to include everyone in your bar or restaurants atmosphere is to host events that are gay, lesbian, trans and queer-focused. Nowadays it’s not just gay bars that are expected to support the community; everyone should take a turn in making LGBTQ+ folks feel welcome, and there’s no easier way than hosting a more diverse array of events at your business. Your contribution to inclusivity creates a positive impact on the community and will leave people with a better understanding of your business values.
In the end, no bar or restaurant will ever get it perfect 100% of the time. However, the beverage and alcohol industry has made a true mark on the LGBTQ+ community since the beginning of time, and will continue to bring the community back to their roots through drinks and ambiance. This industry has moved mountains for the gay community as we’ve gone from needing safe places to socialize to needing big entertainment. As we consider what moves to make in regards to inclusivity, we have to remember the role we play in the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals, and what our small business changes can mean to every customer we encounter.