Friday, June 18, 2010

Oldest Gay Bar in U.S. Closes its Doors After 71Years

You'd never guess to look at it, but the Cedar Brook Cafe has been the hub of the LGBT community in Fairfield County, CT for 71 years, making it the oldest continuously operated gay night club in the U.S. Sadly the club will be closing its doors on June 26th.

The Westport News reports:
Clem Bellairs, who has owned the club for 12 years, said his reasons for closing the Cedar Brook were financial.

"The landlord died and the people who bought it doubled my rent," he said. "I can't afford it anymore."

Bellairs, 57, bought the club in 1998 after going there since he was 21.

"It was closing down and they were going to turn it into a strip mall," he said. "I wanted to see it stay alive."

According to Dan Woog, author of School's Out: The Impact of Gay and Lesbian Issues on America's Schools, the Cedar Brook has played an important role within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for many years.

"In the early days, when bars were the only place gay people could congregate, it was a refuge," he said. "In the 1970s, when gay people came out more publicly, it was the center of Fairfield County gay life. In the 1980s, when more women started going, it helped bring the gay and lesbian communities closer together. Always, it was a rite of passage for young people -- for many, their first introduction to the gay community."

But Woog said the club was important to more than just the LGBT community.

"When it closes, there will be one less club in Fairfield County," he said. "So it's a loss for anyone, gay or straight, and one more indication of the dwindling night life in this area."

Woog described his first experience at the Cedar Brook as "eye-opening."

"For a long time, the Brook had a mystique for gay teenagers growing up in Westport," he said. "You wanted to know what it was like inside, but you didn't want anyone to know you wanted to know. I saw so many people having a great time, being themselves. I never knew there were so many gay people in Fairfield County!"
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