Since opening our little queer witch shop, the witches at Maude's Paperwing Gallery have been working hard to create space for the LGBTQIA+ that allows for growth and healing. While a bar might seem like a strange place to continue that journey, we are already confident we made the right choice in opening Harold's Haunt.
We have some beautiful plans. To read more about our original vision at Maude's Paperwing Gallery, click here! Otherwise, keep reading to see what the space we're building will look like.
Millvale Queer Space
Millvale is one of Pittsburgh’s most up-and-coming neighboring communities. In the last year, there has been a sizable influx of new small businesses setting up shops in the area. While it is on track for revitalization, the most exciting aspect of this is that the area is also making diversity and inclusion a huge priority.
Historically, Millvale does not have the best track record when it comes to diversity (it is still possible to find the borough listed as a Sundown Town). However, this June, Millvale hosted its second annual Pride event and it was a roaring success. Rainbow flags can be seen in the windows of most of the businesses along Grant Ave. While huge progress has been made, there are still many areas of Millvale that are inhospitable for marginalized communities.
The Witches at Maude's Paperwing Gallery have been working diligently to create LGBTQIA+ community space in the Millvale area, and they hope to continue to do so at Harold's Haunt. Harold's Haunt is located less than a block away from Maude's Paperwing Gallery, and between the two spaces is Glittersty, a community drag space and sober meeting space for the LGBTQIA+ community. We are incredibly excited to have all three businesses work together, and our hope (or, our 'Gay Agenda') is to make Millvale a thriving and vibrant Gay-borhood that will draw members of the LGBTQIA+ community from all parts of the Pittsburgh area.
They-Bar vs Gay Bar
Though the greater Pittsburgh area does have a handful of existing gay bars, Harold’s Haunt will set itself apart as the first “they-bar,” a queer space designed to feel (and be) inclusive and welcoming of everyone. While a number of Pittsburgh gay bars have made progress in this area, most traditional gay bars are overwhelmingly dominated by cisgender white gay men, both in patronage and ownership, and people who do not fit into that category often feel unwelcome–sometimes by design.
There are countless testimonies from across the country about the discriminatory culture that surrounds gay bars and clubs. Some recent examples include:
In response to numerous complaints and testimonies from the public, in 2017 Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations ordered the owners and staff of 11 area gay bars to undergo anti-discrimination training, having concluded that all of the bars “create preferable environments for white, cisgender male patrons.”
Last August, human rights activists met in Chicago to discuss the discrimination that’s so ingrained in the city’s queer culture, the “gay neighborhood” is known locally as Boys Town. Transgender folks, women, people of color, and other members of the community spoke to the panel at length about their repeated experiences of discrimination.
An ongoing lawsuit in New York alleges that the owners of popular club The Q intentionally and explicitly tried to make the place “comfortable for white [young gay men]” and told staff not to “alienate the white boys,” while also instructing staff to be discriminatory against anyone who didn’t fit that mold. In response, queer artist and NYC city councilmember Marti Gould Cummings stated, “The horrible reality is in so many nightlife venues inclusivity and acceptance is not the norm. I will no longer be working at these venues and I should have left a long time ago. Trans, Black, Latino, Indigenous, AAPI, Disabled, Women must be welcome in all queer spaces.”
The unwelcoming atmosphere of most gay bars is something that has been known within the queer community for some time, and as a result spaces for the more marginalized members of the LGBTQIA+ community are beginning to spring up nationwide. As of last month, there are numerous queer bars and cafes within the cohort Harold’s will be part of; explicitly inclusive spaces have opened up in Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, San Diego, Bloomington, Indiana, Los Angeles, and Chicago to name a few. As noted in a Bon Appetit article from June 2022, “a new generation of queer drinking and dining spaces is emerging, one that represents a critical reframing of what, exactly, makes a bar queer in the first place. Beyond catering to people of a certain sexual orientation, these spaces seek to reflect and uphold everything that a new era of queerness stands for: intention, safety, and inclusivity.”
Harold’s Haunt will be the intentional, safe, and inclusive space the Pittsburgh community needs and deserves.
Sober & Non-Alcoholic Drinks Too!
The witches at Maude's Paperwing Gallery have made a point to celebrate those who choose to be sober, and they want to make sure this holds true at Harold's Haunt as well. We have found that many of our friends and community members who are sober or don’t prefer alcohol find it frustrating to spend time at bars. While many bars stock a few (usually dusty) cans of alcohol-free beer, it’s incredibly rare that there are alcohol-free mixed drinks on the menu. We will be making it a priority to have non-alcoholic options that are made with just as much care as our specialty cocktails.
We will also be hosting Sober events in partnership with Glittersty. At those events, all drink options will be alcohol-free! We're excited to host events where people can enjoy the nightlife atmosphere, without having to feel pressured to drink or uncomfortable being surrounded by inebriated individuals.
If you're curious about sobriety, there are lots of resources out there!