From Forbes, in New York City’s East Village, a new kind of queer bar has arrived. No Bar, which opened in February, has many staples of a typical LGBTQ+ inclusive bar—drag shows, parties, eclectic décor, etc... However, the space is attached to the Standard Hotel and a bit more upscale, priding itself not only on inclusivity, but also on its extensive cocktail menu, delicious food, and overall chic environment.
No Bar is the brainchild of critically acclaimed chef Angela Dimayuga, the Creative Director for Food and Culture for all Standard hotels. Prior to holding this position, she was the executive chef at Mission Chinese Food in New York City, which was rated the best restaurant of 2012 by the New York Times. In 2015, Dimayuga was named one of the best new chefs by New York Magazine, and in 2016, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for “Rising Star Chef of the Year.”
After starting her position with Standard International, Dimayuga decided to do something special with the East Village location. She wanted to open a bar that felt as inclusive and welcoming as possible. “Identifying as a queer woman of color,” she says, “I didn’t ever really frequent gay bars or gay clubs as a younger person in New York…I wondered why that was…I didn’t have a place for me to go where I felt like there were peers of mine, women that identified as queer or trans folk.”
Additionally, Dimayuga says, “There should be an option to go to a queer and inclusive space that is nice.”
As such, the design of the space was really important to her. She thought about the gay bars near where she grew up in San Francisco. Many, she says, were filled with “gay muscly men” and gave off an “S&M cowboy vibe.”
“I got really into this idea of reimagining what that feels like,” she says, “A queer cowboy bar, but it’s not run by a cisgender, gay buff guy.” She integrated cowhide upholstery and ceramic pendant lamps, and she also decided to use art by Dachi Cole, a lesbian mixed media artist who creates images of Black cowboys.
Dimayuga thinks of No Bar as a place for everyone, but with “queer sensibility.” Because it is connected to a hotel, many non-queer people are likely to wander in. She hopes everyone feels welcome, and says the way to make this possible is to remain product-driven, to focus on providing good music, great food and drinks, and entertaining programs. The bar, she says, is also accessible in terms of prices, with both cheap and expensive cocktails available.
In addition to an inclusive feel, Dimayuga has prioritized making sure the bar is fun, celebratory, and dynamic. “People within our community and folks that know us through friends want to utilize the space in interesting ways,” she says.
From comedy nights to birthday parties to baby showers, No Bar is doing it all.
“We really love that people see it as a space where they can display their art or share something…I have no issues with any gay bars that exist. I go to them as often as I can, but I don’t know if there’s a space that feels as dynamic and small as what we’re doing, which I think is really beautiful.”
To Dimayuga, the name No Bar implies just that kind of dynamism, the idea she says, “of a no holds bar, or no rules, where it feels like anything goes in the space.”