Getting (Coat) Checked: Is Philly’s Guerrilla Queer Bar One Big Marketing Ploy?

coat check guerilla queer barI’m always early when I go places, despite the age-old (and rather annoying, might I add) principle that gay men are supposed to be “fashionably late.”  So, naturally, I arrived at 8:45 p.m., about fifteen minutes before the start time of March’s Guerrilla Queer Bar at Field House, the sports bar located next to the Reading Terminal Market, a mere two blocks from the Gayborhood. I walked right in, hung my coat on one of the numerous hooks located throughout the restaurant, sat at the bar, ordered a Moscow Mule, and waited.

Five minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, a young female employee of Field House started running around, hanging what appeared to be freshly printed signs adjacent to all of the coat hooks that read “COAT CHECK: $2 per coat.”  A line formed outside, where a bouncer began charging the $5 “cover” to get in the door.




I immediately texted my friend who was joining me: “I got here at the right time!  Now there is a bouncer!”

He texted back: “Girrrrrrrrl, I’m not even trying to play these hetero games.”

To the pleasure of the event organizers, quite a few people did play these “hetero games,” as the Field House was filled with hundreds of LGBT people, dancing, drinking, and mingling.  Yet, I couldn’t help but think about the social implications of such an event, and how it boils down to one magic word: money.

The goal of the Guerrilla Queer Bar is for the LGBT community to “take over” a hetero-normative space for “one night only.”  Here’s the problem: It’s 2014. We don’t need to take over spaces anymore — we’re here.  I could have easily walked into Field House on Friday with a group of five gay men and we would have fit in just fine, Guerrilla Queer Bar or not.

So what’s the point?

When I saw the $2 coat check signs pop up magically five minutes before the start of the event, it registered rather clearly that we, as a community, are seen as a target of income.  The hospitality and entertainment industries prey on us, just like they do any demographic of people who have cash to spend.  Why do you think the owners of gay bars allow heterosexual female bachelorette parties in their spaces? Despite the moaning and groaning of gay men who are offended by the parties, the tipsy bridal parties bring money in the door.  End of story.

Three Moscow Mules later, my friend and I decided it was time to move on.  I went to get my coat off the hook, where I found it covered by at least a dozen other jackets.  It was a little after 11 p.m. at that point, and the line to get into Field House was still wrapped around the block. From a sheer numbers standpoint, the event was a success, but make no mistake — success here is measured by how much liquor is sold, how many people show up, and how much money is made, not by the queer-ing of a hetero-normative space.

It does beg the question: How much money did they make over that makeshift coat check?

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  • MS

    The author of the article makes me sick … not because he’s gay but I can’t stand anyone who drones on with complaints. If the bar decided to charge the coat check fee so be it don’t go back. At the end of the day it’s about green and not sexual preferences.

    Go back and find something important to piss about moan about.

  • Anonymous

    I’m pretty sure TWC and its GQB is organized by LGBTQ folks? I have a feeling they got a kickback on the coat check/bar tab/cover. Maybe it’s the other way around – instead of us being targeted for “expendable income”, we’re marketing that very same “expendable income” to “straight” bars. It’s a business model that has worked for years in Philly – circuit parties organized by the community, for the community, to shake up the scene. Also, Field House is a bad example because they are so supportive of LGBT causes – yes, they donate to LGBT non-profits.

  • Matthew Ray

    This article is pretty off-base, and I question the motives for writing it. I hung up my coat without paying. $5 is nothing to get into any club with a DJ or security. Me, and the five gay guys I brought, had never been to Field House outside of corporate events – and we probably only got out on the dance floor and put our hands in the air ’cause of GQB and The Welcoming Committee. Yes, it is 2104 but we still need to remind people who we are and where we are.

  • Matt

    I’m curious, how you think any other organization with 100s attendees would be treated at a bar? Do you think the owners of the Field House would have the same $$ in their eyes? (hint: because are you apparently too dense to recognize a soon-to-be post-gay society, the answer is “no differently”)
    Seems to me that the only person trying to take advantage of gay people is Mr. BUTTler. He unskillfully does so by making us think we are taken advantage of and on unequal footing with the rest of society when it’s not the case.

    Congrats Philly Mag for isolating and segregating the LGBT community once again.

    • Matt

      or at least soon-to-be post-gay in our little center city society

  • phillyqueer

    Mr Buttler is a sensationalist, and a perusal of PhillyGayCalendar, PhillyMagTicket, etc., will show a sampling of his poor grasp of grammar, syntax, rhetoric, and logic on topics as wide-ranging as GCB conspiracies to opera reviews. How blest we are to have such an expert on so many topics to edify us. These days, apparently, one need only speak a profession into being for it to be so. More to blame, though, are the ersatz editors who continue to accept his musings for publication.

  • Traveler

    I agree with the author. There are no so blind as those who cannot see. He points out something that has been going on with he gay community for the past 25 years. Just this new ” whatever” generation tends to dismiss his observations