Girls’ night out

By Derek Kucynda

Fifty years ago, a lesbian nightlife scene in Chicago seemed like a fantasy. Now, as society has become more accepting of the GLBT community, more bars, clubs and events are springing up around the city to make up for lost time, said Ken Mallwitz, the general manager at Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave.

Jody Warner / The Chronicle

Rachel Blanton, Mindy Bosco and Ashley Clement party and chat at Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave., on May 8.

Marketing companies and bars host different themed nights at various nightlife spots around Chicago that cater to the lesbian crowd. Most of the bars and clubs are located in the Andersonville and Boystown neighborhoods, and some of the bars and clubs are more lesbian oriented.

Elaine Marro, a promoter for Chix Mix Productions, a production company that sponsors and throws monthly theme parties at nightclubs for lesbians, said some of the popular lesbian bars and clubs are mostly found in the Andersonville neighborhood, located on Clark and Foster streets on the North Side. While she frequents both Andersonville and Boystown, she said she has noticed that there is a gender divide within the two predominant GLBT neighborhoods.

Marro said more women are attracted to the Andersonville neighborhood because Andersonville’s bars and clubs are typically geared toward lesbians. But, she said the bars in the predominately male neighborhood of Boystown aren’t just for the guys anymore, pointing out that bars like Lakeview Broadcasting Company, 3542 N. Halsted St., and Hydrate, 3458 N. Halsted St., now have more girls in the crowd.

“In Boystown, the bars are mostly for the [gay] boys,” Marro said. “But there are a lot of lesbians that do come to bars and clubs down Halsted.”

According to Marro, Circuit Nightclub, 3641 N. Halsted St., is a popular club among lesbians, especially when production companies like Girl Bar and Chix Mix host events there.

“Though the bars in Boystown might be fun, Circuit definitely has a strong lesbian presence with Chix Mix and Girl Bar nights,” Marro said. “Hundreds of people attend the monthly events there.”

The popularity of Circuit as a nightlife destination for women is largely attributed to Girl Bar, a promotion company, and Chix Mix Productions, and the companies’ past events, Marro said. With Chix Mix theme nights like Black Bra and White Heat parties, where women dress in black bras or white clothes, Circuit has built a reputation for sexed-up theme nights, risque parties and visually-appealing light shows, Marro said.

“Circuit pushes the boundaries of the regular nightlife experience and expands on it to include drag king revues, erotic dancers and wet T-shirt contests, which have been staples of the club for a while,” Marro said.

Most recently, Chix Mix Productions brought a new weekly event to Wet Nightclub, 209 W. Lake St., called Wild on Wet Thursdays. The women-only event began at the end of April. In the past, both sexes were allowed in Wet Nightclub on Thursdays, but the event is now girls only—and even the staff and bartenders are female, Marro said.

“Women see that Wild on Wet has more females attending, and I think they feel more comfortable in that type of area,” Marro said.

However, Deaw Inthamat, a sophomore arts, entertainment and media management major at Columbia, said Chix Mix nights, especially at Circuit, can sometimes be overcrowded and pricey. She said hundreds of women attend, especially if a celebrity guest is set to appear there.

“Chix Mix and Girl Bar nights are really fun and lots of people show up, especially to see a celebrity guest [like] Brandi Ryan and Dani Campbell [from ‘A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila’],” Inthamat said. “On those nights, Circuit can get overcrowded.”

Jody Warner / The Chronicle

Erika Gaspar waits for her friends to arrive at Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave., on May 8. Spin is widely known as a GLBT bar and is regularly packed with partying lesbians, gays, transgenders and straights alike.

For those looking for an inexpensive night on the town, Marro said one of the most appealing features for the frugal lesbian on the GLBT nightlife scene is the $1 drink nights at Hydrate and Spin. Every Monday, Hydrate opens its doors until 4 a.m., and patrons can buy drinks and domestic beer for $1.

Inthamat said she frequently goes to GLBT bars like Circuit Nightclub and Hydrate but prefers the lesbian-friendly Spin Nightclub because women outnumber the men every Wednesday night.

“Lots of men go to Hydrate on Monday nights,” Inthamat said. “Women do go there with their friends, but my friends [and I] prefer Spin on Wednesdays because there is more of a female crowd there on that night. Plus, isn’t the bar scene about meeting new people?”

One of the more popular bars that women go to in Andersonville is Star Gaze Restaurant and Bar, 5419 N. Clark St., said Star Gaze bartender Sara Dobrovolny. She said Star Gaze has a laid back atmosphere with a variety of things to do, like darts and billiards, open mics and karaoke nights, which are free on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“We have our fun moments, but [Star Gaze] is definitely not as crazy as Boystown bars, since [their bars] are so close to each other,” Dobrovolny said. “Younger people tend to go to Boystown. Here, our crowd is generally in their late 20s, because we’ve been around for some time.”

However, Dobrovolny said she notices the appeal of Boystown for the GLBT community and acknowledges that there are more choices of bars and clubs that lesbians can go to in Boystown.

“The bars and clubs in Boystown are a little bit bigger, more diverse and they have more shows and productions going on,” Dobrovolny said.

Bar owners like Mallwitz said the nightlife scene in Boystown and Andersonville has a mixed crowd and most bars, including Spin, have an almost equal number of men to women.

Though Spin is geared to the GLBT crowd, straight individuals are welcome to come, said Mallwitz. He said the nightclub’s appeal comes from the various daily specials and events. For example, on the second Saturday of every month, Spin hosts Fish Tank, which is a monthly event that targets and markets to an exclusively lesbian crowd, Mallwitz said. On other nights, Spin has other deals and events like CD release parties and free billiard nights.

“Every night, we have [different] events like shower contests, where participants can win money [and] hip-hop nights,” Mallwitz said.

Mallwitz said Spin targets a specific age group, with most patrons generally between the ages of 21 and 25. He also said Spin does not discriminate based on a patron’s orientation or gender.

“Anybody is welcome here,” Mallwitz said. “It’s not a big stigma like it was years ago. For us, [the] most important [goal] is to create a safe space for gays and lesbians so they can hang out with friends. It’s not a big deal to be gay and lesbian anymore.”