Misti Collinsworth and Cainan Harris met at a toga party in Kansas City, Mo. They reconnected in Albuquerque a few years later. Over drinks at a Downtown bar, they reached a conclusion. "We were like, There's not really a good gay happy hour place," Collinsworth says. "There's not really a whole lot of good gay anything here. We should probably do something about that."
In June, Guerrilla Queer Bar launched into cyberspace. Modeled after versions in other cities, Burque's is an LGBT and straight online community that throws group events at bars throughout the city. On the first Saturday of every month, the cyber-bar's founders post the location and meeting time for that month's get-together on the group's website, Facebook and Twitter page by 3 p.m.
Collinsworth says the goal is not to muscle out a bar's regular patrons and pack it with LGBT-friendly drinkers. It's about increasing the gay community's visibility. "Our goal is to integrate, not intimidate," the group's Facebook page says. "It will be great fun to explore the clubs and bars that we normally may not frequent because it’s a traditionally straight bar/club. It’s time to expand your horizons; meet new friends of all walks of life."
Harris says he would have been happy if Guerrilla Queer Bar attracted 100 friends on Facebook. The group now boasts a robust and growing 500-plus membership. Guerrilla Queer Bar's first event in August attracted around 300 people to One Up Elevated Lounge. "We brought in a good chunk of change the first night we did this," Harris says. "They had a line out the door. It was a good event, but it definitely showed there is power in our numbers."
Collinsworth says part of the point of Guerrilla Queer Bar is to show club owners how valuable the LGBT community is to their pocketbooks. "It's like, Do you have any idea how much money we bring into bars as a whole?" Collinsworth says.
The Alibi got a drink with the two nonprofit party pioneers.
What's with the spontaneity? Why do you only tell your members where an event is happening the day of?
Collinsworth: It's part of the excitement. It keeps everybody talking about it, and it keeps everybody corresponding on the wall and sending us suggestions about where the next event will be. We give the bar 24 hours’ notice.
"There's not really a whole lot of good gay anything here.”
Misti Collinsworth, co-founder of Guerrilla Queer Bar
Did you ever think you'd get more than 500 members?
Harris: It's like a huge snowball that's picking everything up in its tracks. What it indicates is that people are thirsty for it, and the gay community is wanting something to happen and to get together in some way. This is a place to do that.
Do you consider Guerrilla Queer Bar a political group?
Collinsworth: Not at all. We're trying to stay away from anything political.
Collinsworth: Because we want it to be open to everybody. It's kind of a “Come one, come all” kind of thing.
What else do you think can be done to increase visibility of the community?
Collinsworth: I think our LGBT organizations do really great work, but I think we should branch out. They [the organizations] should probably get involved in more of Albuquerque as a whole. Here in Albuquerque, things are kind of cliquish, so most of the people in the gay community know what HRC [Human Rights Campaign] or Equality New Mexico is, but not everybody does.
Have you thought about turning the group into a moneymaking venture?
Harris: That's weird, because that's the question everybody wants to know, and that wasn't our intention at all. We just wanted to create it and see what happened. If we tried to make money, we'd just look like assholes.
Collinsworth: It loses its bluster and starts to look kind of skeezy.
Do you think these gatherings can break down barriers or erode stereotypes?
Collinsworth: I walked around at One Up and kind of saw what else was going on. I walked up to a table that ended up being a bunch of frat boys. They were like, "This is so cool. We've met so many cool people." That's kind of cool to hear that from a frat boy.
Harris: If a night out twists someone's opinion on something that they didn't consider before, then that's great. That's the whole point of going out.