I was looking through some LGBTQIA materials recently, being a transplant to the Lansing area a lot of the history was a mystery to me. I remember coming to Lansing as a teenager, heading down Turner Street to get my hands on LGBT publications from the gay bookstore. (The name of it escapes me now.) The bookstore is long gone and the local places to find such publications have been reduced to merely two shelves at corporate stores such as Schuler Books or Barnes & Noble.
I have read about the heyday of LGBT bars in Lansing, their downfalls and the holes left when they disappeared. Many key points can be made. Some owners are in the business only for profit; others are in it as a community outreach and resource center along with giving LGBTQIA people a safe space to enjoy. I am happy to say I am employed and run a club (The Chrome Cat) that is the latter.
Sir Club in the 70’s was one of the first bars of it’s kind to surface. It began as a gay club and safe space, moved into a newer, larger space to ultimately be turned into a straight topless club by it’s straight owner without notice to the community it served. On the opening night of being a topless bar, gay patrons were turned away. So they headed down the road to another known safe haven, Stober’s. Safety soon became an issue, as muggings occurred more often to the gay patrons.
Covello’s soon filled in the space that was missing within our community. Then popped up Trammp’s next door, the high-scale Studio 54-type club. Soon more competition popped up, with Bonnie & Clyde’s down the street. It was Lansing’s gay bar heyday…
Soon Bonnie & Clyde’s closed their doors so the community traveled back to Covello’s and Trammp’s until the city bought the block to build Lugnuts stadium, closing both venues, leaving a hole in the community.
The owners of Trammps went on to open Paradise to fill the gap. In the late 90’s, Spiral opened its doors, competing head to head with Paradise, hurting them significantly. Paradise subsequently opened straight nights to try and hold on to sales. Paradise was eventually sold to Spiral’s owner in 2002, and the club was renamed X-cel, keeping with the mixed nights.
The 505 was the lesbian hot spot in town until 2008, when they closed their doors for good. Another bar, Esquire, was opened and marketed as a gay bar in 2000. It was located at the end of the street as Spiral in Old Town.
The Lansing gay bar scene would remain unchanged for the next nine years. Many of these bars offrereda safe space for LGBT’s to gather, drink and be themselves, but offering little outside that.
It wasn’t until Jan 2009 when the Chrome Cat opened its doors for the first time that the community saw a change. We offer a community space for all people, Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Queer, In-betweens & Allies.
Food, catering, theme parties, live music, karaoke/open mic, pole dance lessons, amazing drag shows among other things – where else can you get all that in one spot?? Nowhere.
We kind of took the community & Lansing by storm. Some of the community is upset we are not strictly a gay/lesbian bar…or taking the spot 505 left. But we never wanted to fill someone else’s shoes. We have always wanted to make our own path, with the community and allies that will help us burn it. The staff of the Chrome Cat is hard working, dedicated and always looking to entertain and please our customers.
I have worked in other gay bars, frequented many other bars, and if there is one thing to say about Chrome Cat versus other local watering holes, it’s this: you are always welcome, you are always respected and they have one hell of a staff serving this community and safe space for all.
That being said, my main point of my ramblings is this: In this day and age, more and more it seems big corporations are running off mom and pop establishments, and greed and profit overrule the needs of community and safe spaces. The more I dig, the more I find this to be true. To me it’s a scary reality that maybe one day some of my favorite places will become Lansing lore like Trammp’s and Covello’s did.
So I often frequent places like Golden Harvest, Chrome Cat and other grassroots businesses to do my part in maintaining their sanctity. And you should, too! One day you may wake up and not have a choice to patronize them, because they have been washed away by the economic society and then you will feel the void often left in our community. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL EVERYTHING!
Feel free to pass this on, it’s a way to keep our community ours….
Save the Kitty Benefit
Fri,Sept 10, 7 pm – 2 am
$5 suggested donation @ door
Hosted by Aaliyah Martinez & Dj Alabama from 97.5
house dj’s Fudgie & Cat Scratch
4 guest djs
Drag performances by the Chrome Cat Divas
100% of tips are being donated back by the staff to the bar they call home