Albuquerque's oldest LGBT club is still going strong
By Nora Hickey
Long before New Mexico legalized gay marriage, a little place known as the Albuquerque Social Club, or “the Soch” (pronounced “soach”) offered a friendly space for the Albuquerque LGBTQ community to share a few drinks and swap stories. Established in 1971, the private, not-for-profit club has continued to adapt to changing tastes while retaining its notable welcoming atmosphere.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
“It’s like a gay Cheers,” says manager Kyle Peralta.
“It’s like a gay Cheers,” says manager Kyle Peralta. Before becoming manager in April, Peralta was a member and performer at the club, and is still known on the stage as Raquel Del Rio. He notes the efforts made by the club’s last manager to change the reputation of the Soch from “a smoky, old man’s club,” to one appealing to many clienteles. To attract new groups, former manager Wes Haggard (current manager of Social Club “sister bar” Effex) established regular drag and ladies nights, and refurbished the old space with new paint and lighting. A glimpse of the club reveals a classic bar stocked with numerous liquors and a larger dark space and stage pleasantly aglow with blue and green lights.
Even with the alterations, the long-standing regulars find a good deal of their “Soch” intact. Besides the popular happy hour, the warm community remains the same. Glenn Zachowski, a member since 1988, felt welcomed as soon as he walked in the green door 26 years ago. “It didn’t feel like a typical gay bar,” he tells me over coffee. “It felt absolutely friendly.” Zachowski remembers the social club as unique and important in the gay scene of ’80s-era Albuquerque. “The Social Club did not have a target audience; they were wide open to the LGBT community,” he says.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The membership aspect of the club ($15 for a year) contributes greatly to this friendly and familiar environment. By purchasing a membership, one has access to reasonably priced drinks, a variety of shows and theme nights, and the enthusiastic management and staff. “Every manager brings their own skills and works with everyone; the current managers are doing a lot of new things and considering new ideas,” notes Zachowski.
The club continues to provide a vital space for LGBTQ Albuquerque with its variety of offerings and commitment to welcoming all patrons. Zachowski remembers a recent evening when a woman new to the club entered. “We ended up sitting and talked for a good hour, she was someone off the street who didn’t know a soul, someone who just lost a partner of many decades, and she immediately felt comfortable,” he remembers.
Albuquerque Social Club
4021 Central NE
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