The Embers Avenue, one of the largest and oldest gay bars in Portland, Oregon, is closing Friday morning at 2:30. According to a brief Facebook post, the owner of the club had a stroke, and can no longer operate the business. Given the short notice, the club will be open tonight and Thursday night.
The final show will be hosted by Portland drag queen Onyx Lynn Valentine. She calls herself the “Youngest First Lady of the Embers Avenue,” and has worked at the bar for years. We found a video of a 2013 performance at Embers Avenue:
The bar was founded in 1969, the same year as the Stonewall riots, making The Embers Avenue one of the longest-running gay nightclubs and show bars in Portland. It’s situated in Portland’s Old Town Historic District on NW Broadway.
While The Embers Avenue is closing because of a medical issue, a number of gay bars have been closing lately. While some critics have pointed to apps as the culprit, it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Many sources point to widespread LGBTQ acceptance, especially in big cities, making gay bars less important as a safe spaces for the queer community to meet.
Gay bars (and gayborhoods) are also often the victims of gentrification. Professor Kareem Khubchandani says that this is in part due to gay people idealizing a suburban life with a job and partner, because that life is the least policed by forces typically hostile to queer culture.
Also, the LGBTQ community is evolving as queer youth feel less of a need to label themselves as either “straight” or “LGBTQ” (and are excluded from gay bars until age 21 anyway). Thus, they grow up with little connection to gay bars at all, especially in cities with 18-and-up or all-ages venues.
Still, even as gay bars close, it’s a tragedy. And we send our best to the owner of The Embers Avenue, and hope for a swift recovery.
The last show at The Embers Avenue is Thursday, November 30. The Embers Avenue is located at 110 NW Broadway in Portland, Oregon.
Featured image by AleksandarGeorgiev via iStock