December 1, 2023
Iconic Chicago Queer Bar Closes Over Labor Dispute
Emell Adolphus READ TIME: 2 MIN.
Berlin, an iconic queer bar in Chicago is now closed after four decades. According to the New York Times, the bar's owners announced that the venue was closing after months of boycotts by workers and performers for higher wages, health insurance and improved security.
"The magic that happened at 954 W. Belmont will never be recreated," reads a statement on the bar's website. "It couldn't be. It was a remarkable tornado of talented performers and staff, inspired friends and customers, a crazy location and a lot of dreams."
Former patrons and bartenders of the space responded to the announcement on social media with accounts of their fond memories.
"The early 90s at Berlin was a blur and an absolute blast!" one previous patron wrote on Facebook.
"It was like an island of misfit toys," St. Sukie de la Croix, who photographed Chicago's gay nightlife in the 1990s, said in an interview with NYT. "Everybody who didn't fit into other gay bars went to Berlin because everybody went to Berlin."
Berlin opened in 1983 just as Chicago's gay rights movement was taking off. The named is a nod to Germany's cabaret clubs and underground scenes. And it was this alternative vibe that attracted a slew of celebrities, including John Waters, Elton John and Donna Karan. Among the club's famous performers include Lizzo and the drag star JoJo Baby.
"Berlin offered a space for you to not do a Top 40 song, not wear the trendiest wig, just be a weirdo and a freak, and the audience would embrace you," said DiDa Ritz, a contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race" and a regular performer at Berlin.
She added, "What made it really magical was there would be straight people from Wrigleyville with their Cubs jerseys on, trans people, just a whole array of people. Literally 'til the last day it closed, it welcomed everybody."
And it sounds like it will be sorely missed. Read the complete story in NYT.