The Eqyptian Room Closes its Doors
Another one bites the dust.
After almost 15 years, countless pints of PBR and custom-made shots, Portland's most iconic lesbian bar is closing. Over the years, the cool, charmingly divey, cavern-like bar has gone by many names: The Egyptian, the E room, the E Lounge. But a lot of local lesbians just call it their second home.
“This is the first place I ever met any lesbians when I moved here in 1999,” said patron Tess Poat on a recent night, just after happy hour, in the bar's dark confines. This is where I found my queer community.”
In many ways, the E room embodies the story of iconic lesbian bars across the country. Faced with a diversified queer population that no longer flocks to gay bars, and—perhaps most essentially—a hideous economy, scores of bars that cater to the LGBT community are shutting their doors.
“We always said we'd stay open as long as our community wanted to support us,” says E room owner Kim Davis. “But I know more unemployed people than employed people. I think it's a matter of they just can't support us. Our sales now are worse than when we opened 14 years ago.”
Davis cites the economy as a main factor, but notes that a shift in the social habits of younger lesbians also has affected business. “Wherever they go, they're more accepted than we were years ago, which is great, because it's what we marched for” she says. But, ironically, such acceptance has diluted the customer pool for establishments that cater primarily to the LGBT community.
These days, it's not like this is a new story, but that fact doesn't make it any easier to swallow for longtime patrons and employees –many of whom have worked at the bar for years—especially for an establishment that was just voted Best Lesbian Bar in the Country by a popular vote on Gaycities.com. The E room opened in November 1995 and at its peak employed 27. “We're down to 10 now,” says longtime bartender Noelle Myers. “It's just sad. We're like family. I've cried every day for the past several days. It feels like my parents are getting a divorce or something.”
Of the folks who bellied up to the bar on a recent night, all expressed a genuine sadness at their hangout's demise. Customer Connie Gambino might be the most regular of the regulars, having patronized the establishment since the second day of its existence. “It's a sad day for everyone,” Gambino said. “Frankly, I don't know where I'm going to go after this. But it's not about me. It's about the gay community, having a place to go where you can be yourself. A meeting place.”
Davis says she's not quite sure when the final closing date will be. October 9 was the original date, but now she says she hopes to make it to the club's 15th anniversary in November. Other than that, she says, “we're hoping for a miracle. We've bought lottery tickets.”