“We teamed up with the Lesbian Bar Project, Jägermeister’s #savethenight campaign and Executive Producer Lea DeLaria to make sure we’ll never have to close our doors,” said Jennifer Maguire (photo left), who co-owns MSR with wife Jami (right).
The Maguires are among a slew of LGBTQ Atlanta business owners negatively impacted by coronavirus. They spoke to Project Q during a live virtual event in June and offered an update on their innovations in October.
In September, MSR was one of 10 LGBTQ-owned businesses in the U.S. to receive a grant from the Human Rights Campaign.
But the pandemic has only exacerbated challenges unique to lesbian bars. In 1980, there were 300 such establishments across the country, according to the Lesbian Bar Project. Today, only 15 remain, including MSR.
The reasons point to a multi-pronged challenge that’s part culture and part logistics, Maguire told Project Q.
“It is hard for restaurants and bars to make it normally, so you can imagine how hard it is to only shoot for 2 percent of the population,” she said. “Also lesbians seem to settle down, get married and hibernate.”
By women, for women
Atlanta is something of an anomaly in its broad base for patrons, she added.
“At MSR, we are lucky to have not only a thriving lesbian community in Atlanta, but also a very supportive LGBTQ community. That is very much a part of who we are at MSR,” Maguire said. “MSR is a place for anyone wanting to come have a good time. No judgment, no labels, you can feel free to be yourself.”
That commitment to the whole spectrum of LGBTQ Atlantans — with a focus on being for women and by women — is worth saving, and that’s where the Lesbian Bar Project aims to help. MSR’s owners “have no idea what to expect” in terms of funds , but the campaign’s sentiment alone means a lot.
“We are just touched that the people that started the Lesbian Bar Project care enough to send some to all of us,” Maguire said. “We truly believe it is so important to have a home for the lesbian communities.”
The pair put a finer point on the need for women’s spaces on their Bar Project page.
“There is no place quite like a lesbian bar. Yes, we are a place for everyone, but this is a space for women and everyone as long as our space is respected in our LGBTQIA community.”
“Our security and bartenders are taught how to deal with individual situations,” they wrote. “You may not think that is a big deal, but it makes a big difference in the experience our customers have versus a bar geared towards men.”
Something for everyone
The blows keep coming in 2020 but the Maguires intend to survive. These days, social distance and limited capacity mark the karaoke, dances, burlesque and drag at MSR. Still, they are a godsend for the bar and its patrons, the owners asserted.
“This year has been tough, I’m sure for all of us,” Maguire said. “We have lost a lot of money, and it will take a long time to get back to normal. But for now, we are just grateful to be open and making enough to pay the bills.”
Until better times return, expanded outdoor offerings, an eye on nickels and dimes, as well as a focus on the customer experience remain the order of the day.
“We have a big back yard that many people are utilizing to be out in the fresh air while they hang out with friends,” Maguire said. “Everyone is welcome and there is something for everyone.”