Former Sisters Manager Trying to Crowdsource New Philly Lesbian Bar [UPDATED]

13th and locust

A lesbian bar on Barbara Gittings Way? Yes, please.

Denise Cohen—who managed Sisters for 17 years—has started an Indiegogo account to fund a new lesbian bar in Philadelphia. The project is quite ambitious—and mysterious as all get out.

According to the Indigogo page, she has secured an unnamed location, and is looking to fast-track cash from the community before it slips out of her hands. In total, the project is valued at $225,000, but she’s set a goal at $50,000 on Indiegogo to speed the process, and, I’m guessing, put down a good-faith deposit. Plus, according to the campaign, she’s not having a lot of luck when it comes to securing a bank loan:

Banks are not overly interested in funding restaurants/bars let alone a space that has a target audience of LGBT clientele. Nor do we have the luxury of time to keep submitting a plan until a bank approves the loan needed to open a place. Many investors I have spoken to don’t want to invest in this project because of the closing of [Sisters], however I have found a team that is interested in helping make this project a reality but before they will invest any funds they must see that we have raised our own and that our community is there to support this project.

I reached out to Cohen to ask some questions, but she has yet to respond. I have spoken to a close friend of hers, and I’m told Cohen’s aiming for a October 2014 opening. That’s soon, huh? It has to be a space that’s pretty much ready to go. So I’ve started to put together some pieces. Could this be the space at 13th and Locust—the one formerly known as Bump? It’s widely known that Midtown Village restauranteurs Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran own that space now. Is that the “team that’s interested in making this project a reality?” A description of the space on the Indigogo page offers a few more clues:

As mentioned we currently have an amazing target space but time is not on our side—it is a highly sought after space and we need this funding to move fast. Just a little hint: it will feature several bar areas, private bottle service vip room, dancing and entertainment along with an amazing kitchen to produce a fantastic menu.

A kitchen? Bump definitely had a kitchen. I contacted Marcie and Val’s rep, but have yet to hear back. According to my source, however, Marcie has dreamed of opening a bar for ladies who love ladies. “In Marcie’s single days, when she ventured in Sisters, she always told the bartenders she wanted a lesbian bar.”

At publish time, the campaign has only raised $3,315 of its $50K goal. I’d really like to see this take off—yes, because I’d love to see a new space for lesbians to party in the Gayborhood, but I’m also just so damn curious. To read more about it, and to donate, go here. Stay tuned for any updates.

UPDATE [7/29/2014, 11:46 a.m.]: Denise Cohen responded to my inquiry just after publishing this article. We have an appointment to chat later this afternoon. Stay tuned!

UPDATE [7/29/2014, 4:02 p.m.]: Denise Cohen and I had a chat, and she denies that she’s working with Marcie and Val to turn the former Bump location at 13th and Locust into a lesbian bar. She says she’s beholden to a non-disclosure contract and her lips are sealed, but I probed her to give me a little more information. This is how the conversation went:

G Philly: Can you tell me anything about the space? Is it in the Gayborhood, at least?
Denise Cohen: It’s not where Bump used to be, but it’s within the area of the Gayborhood. It’s a good location, with room to allow us to do many different things—food, dancing, entertainment—but it won’t be as large as Sisters.

G Philly: A colleague of mine suggested that you may be taking over The Walnut Street Supper Club (which is rumored to be closing.) Is that true?
DC: You can pry all you want, but I’m not saying a word. [laughs]

GP: You’re pretty far away from your goal right now. Are you hopeful you’ll reach $50K?
DC: I am hopeful. It’s slow-going now, because I don’t think people get the concept. If you click through to the Indigogo page, you’ll see that if you donate $10 you’ll get a $15 coupon to use when the bar opens. So you’re basically getting $5. My backer just needs to see that there’s support in the community, that it’s not all talk. They need to see that people will come when it opens up. There’s a huge concern that no one else is opening a women’s bar. Going into it, [an investor] will look at it and say they don’t think there’s a need for this. But there is. The backer wants to see that there’s support. That’s why it’s important that people go on and donate—even $10.

GP: Seems like a bit of a risk. Are you confident that a lesbian bar will actually work in Philadelphia?
DC: Absolutely. Sisters was around for 17 years. It was long-term. Was it a huge money-maker? Absolutely not, but there will be bodies who come out. They will support it.

In fact, she’s so confident that she says she’s risking her entire life savings, and depending on donations from family and friends. “It’s a big risk, but I know I can do it. It just all comes down to community support.”

What say you, community? Would you like to see a new lesbian bar in the Gayborhood? To lend your support, donate to the Indigogo campaign here. In the meantime, I’m going to keep prying about where this damn space is. Stay tuned!