LGBTQ+ Bars and Clubs have had such an impact on our community,
history has documented that from Stonewall to Studio 54. This
also includes the best of times and the worst of times; a delicate
balance that has shaped us as a community.
We have a local business tie to that LGBTQ+ History right here
in Tampa Bay. Let me introduce you to Art Smith with
GayBarchives. Art has been involved in the local community
for years and he now has a business that CELEBRATES that history.
2021 Pride events started in Tampa last week and continue in
St Pete and nationwide throughout June.
Now we can all take PRIDE in celebrating our history through
GayBarchives, we chatted with Art to find out more about his
The Mission: To build the world's largest archive of the
logos and stories of gay bars from the past, preserving the
memories of the places that were so significant to the growth
and development of the LGBTQ+ community. To date we have commemorated
more than 1250 bars and nightclubs from FORTY NINE states in
the US, along with several in Canada and Europe.
Borman: Art, you have captured Gay (LGBTQ+) Bar and Club
history like no other company. A local Tampa based business
that has reached a global market.
Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us about the GayBarchives.
Tell us a little about the business and did you start the company
here in Tampa Bay? What was the inspiration for starting the
Art Smith: GayBarchives evolved out of a chain of
events that pointed me in that direction. Yes, it started in
I had entered a few t shirt design contests and won them, including
one for Tampa Pride a couple of years ago.
got me started designing other gay-themed t shirts under my
brand, theWOWbiz, which in turn led to do a commemorative design
for one of my favorite Atlanta nightclubs from the 80s and 90s,
I started on a path down memory lane, researched several other
bars from my past and digitally reconstructed their logos. When
Covid hit, I kicked the project into high gear and GayBarchives
was born. We now have documented over 1300 gay bars gone by
and offer them all with tribute designs on our website, GayBarchives.com
DB: Recently you started a podcast talking with some
of the people involved in some of these historical and memorable
landmarks. In just a few weeks after inception of the podcast
you named the #1 Podcast on Podomatic, congratulations! That
is a great accomplishment in just under a month since you started.
Can you tell us about the PODCAST and anything coming up that
will be featuring PRIDE?
(The podcast is now available on most services including Apple,
Google Podcasts and Spotify)
AS: To help spread the word about the gay bars we
loved and lost I had always intended to conduct video interviews
preserving the oral histories from people who have firsthand
experience with bars I have documented. Thanks to ZOOM, I have
been able to interview celebrities, bar owners, staff, and patrons
to capture their memories from the Gay Old Days. At present
there are approximately two dozen video segments online at GayBarchives.com/tv
After getting the project underway a friend suggested that perhaps
an audio-only podcast version would be a good addition. I enlisted
the services of Dick Woelfle of Channel125.com [who edits all
my video segments] to strip the images and convert the segments
to mp3 format.
I launched the GayBarchives podcast via Podomatic in mid-April
of this year and we rose to their #1 LGBT podcast in less than
a month! Your readers can find a list and description of all
our podcast segments at GayBarchives.com/podcast.
did create a special design for last year's Tampa Pride based
upon the performance by headliner Martha Wash who will be appearing
this year instead. As far as the podcast is concerned there
is no segment specifically focused on 2021 pride events. However,
I will be releasing several new episodes in June recounting
stories about Pride events from the past. Stay tuned! For some
Tampa Pride video, please check out hundreds of my video segments
from the last five years of Tampa Pride at https://channel125.com/tampapride
DB: TAMPA Pride was the first PRIDE Celebration in almost
14 months nationwide and it was a great success. We hope that
June is a Huge Celebration nationwide. Staying on the topic
of Pride in Tampa Bay; what are the top 3 Tampa area bars in
your collection that have the most demand? While you were looking
up the history and info on the bars in Tampa Bay did you find
any interesting stories?
AS: By far the top three Tampa bars in the GayBarchives
collection are: Tracks, El Goya and Rene's Disco.
St Pete, both Suncoast Resort and Bedrox have been quite popular.
you might suspect I have uncovered quite a number of interesting
[and sometimes embarrassing] stories during my research. One
of my favorites is about 70s singer/celebrity Tiny Tim doing
an impromptu concert at the Wedgwood Inn, a gay hotel and bar
in downtown St Pete. Another involves local club promoter Rebecca
riding into Chrome on horseback as Lady Godiva.
Ms. Rebecca was a memorable moment, indeed. Reminiscing
about the past, so many spots that are lost but not forgotten,
especially in our memories. The GayBarchives inventory list
continues to grow with over 1300 logos. I had to look and see
if my first Gay Club was listed, sure enough, FLAVOUR was there.
I think that I will have to order one of those.
What if your favorite place is not on the list? We asked Art,
what is the process for adding a new bar? Can anyone submit
their favorite bar/club? Where can you see the inventory and
purchase? Do you have a page dedicated to Florida?
AS: I start by looking for information about the bar
scene in a particular city or region, often by looking at old
gay magazines. Once I know the name I search for more details:
address, years of operation, description of venue, etc.
If I can find their logo, I create a digitally reconstructed
tribute design that evokes the style and feeling of the original.
Next, the listing is created, and shirt/ mask/ mug/ sticker
designs are created and posted in my Teespring storefronts.
Anyone who wants to suggest a bar that I have not yet added
can post their suggestion in the GayBarchives group on Facebook.
This allows others to interact, often providing additional information
that is needed for the listings.
Another option is to email me at GayBarchives@yahoo.com
Group on Facebook
inventory is posted in my Teespring stores, but the easiest
way to find what you are looking for is to go to GayBarchives.com/thelist
and click on the box representing the state your bar was located
in. That will take you to the storefront showing all the designs
for that state.
Yes. On my website there is a page called GayBarchives.com/florida
that includes a video slideshow of over one hundred fifty designs
from the sunshine state, a list of the Florida bars I have included
and a link to the Florida storefront.
DB: Each logo and item you sell has such care and accuracy
in design. I am sure many will respect that. GayBarchives is
a whole experience, Art has literally reconstructed and reproduced
memories that we can continue through all kinds of merchandise.
On average, just to get an idea what is the average cost to
purchase a shirt and about how long does it take to arrive?
AS: Including tax roughly $25 and most orders arrive
within about 2-3 weeks from the date they are ordered. Because
I offer so many color and style options as well as sizes up
to 5XL each shirt is made to order.
DB: The process sounds complex on your end Art, but so
easy for someone to suggest and then have that come to fruition.
Staying with the PRIDE theme, this interview runs during Pride
month, how do you celebrate PRIDE?
AS: Lately my life has been about Pride 365 days a
year. Pride in our past, our heritage and the places that enabled
us to become who we are today. This year I shared the Tampa
Pride experience with some friends from Atlanta and visiting
some of our local gay hotspots for the first time in about a
year. Now that I am fully vaccinated, and things are beginning
to return to some level of 'normalcy' I plan to enjoy more of
the June pride experiences as well. And, of course, I will continue
to research our gay past and uncover even more of the gay bars
we loved and lost.
DB: Will you be attending the St Pete events or any other
PRIDE Festivals in the US?
AS: It is likely that I will attend several pride
events in the upcoming months. St Pete Pride offers a month
of events that will be easy for me to attend, and I have several
good friends who live there. Another pride festival I have on
my agenda this year is Atlanta, which happens in October. I
haven't experienced pride in Atlanta since 2014 and it's always
a blast! There's no telling where else I might show up.
DB: June 2021 will go down in history as the year LGBTQ+
celebrated PRIDE Events nationwide bigger and better than any
year past. Before we go out and celebrate Pride; what is next
for the business? Any Discount codes?
AS: Next Up: Looking for more people to tell their
stories from gay bars of the past. And, hopefully, a series
of books featuring the designs and stories I have been researching
for the last 18 months.
Save 15% on any order placed using that code.
Discount good through July 4th, 2021
closing, as we celebrate out futures let us not forget the past.
A special "Thanks" to Art for capturing these special moments
in our history. Show your PRIDE by supporting a LOCAL business,
Happy PRIDE Everyone!
Tampa Bay Gay
GayBarchives Website: http://gaybarchives.com
FL Store: https://gaybarchives.yolasite.com/florida.php
FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gaybarchives/
#ilovegaybars #lgbthistory #tbteez