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More Than Just A Lesbian Bar: Sue Ellen's And Surviving COVID-19

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Sue Ellen's
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The front of Sue Ellen's, one of the last lesbian bars in Texas and the country, located in Oak Lawn.

Sue Ellen's is an anchor of what's commonly referred to as the "gayborhood" of Dallas — it has filled a key spot in Oak Lawn for more than three decades, and it's one of the last lesbian bars in Texas and the country.

But like just about every bar in Texas, Sue Ellen's is closed now because of the pandemic.

General Manager Kathy Jack has been at the bar through most of its years, from the AIDS crisis through COVID-19. She spoke with KERA's Justin Martin about how Sue Ellen's is doing and the future of gay bars.

Interview Highlights:

On How Sue Ellen's Is Doing:

It's sad going down Cedar Springs right now, because it's usually such a booming area of Oak Lawn, you know, to see half of it shuttered is really hard.

I was just talking to somebody. They said they had just gone down Cedar Springs and it was eerie. I said, yeah, it's eerie. It's sad that has to happen this way. But you know, we've got to get our numbers down and people have got to start doing what they're supposed to be doing before we can move forward.

The governor said that in order for the bars to open, we have to be at 10% and we're at 25%. So we have a long ways to go before we can get open, if he stands to that.

On Sue Ellen's Being One Of The Last Lesbian Bars In Texas:

When we opened Sue Ellen's, I think there were at least four other lesbian bars in Dallas, and these are bars that had been around for a long, long time, for whatever reason in the coming year after Sue Ellen's opened they one-by-one closed down. 
 
I think it may be the fact that the women of Dallas are finding other things to do, you know, this, our clientele has changed and the atmosphere has changed. 
 
My wife and I live in Oak Cliff. We can pretty much go anywhere in Oak Cliff and be ourselves to have a good time; we don't necessarily have to go to a gay bar to be able to be ourselves. 

On LGBTQ Acceptance And The Future Of Gay Bars:

 
Well, I think there will always be a reason to have a gay bar. I don't think they'll ever go away and I don't think they should.

It's part of our heritage, part of our history, many things happened in the bars. We celebrated gay pride in the bars. We celebrated the fact that we can marry who we love in the bars.

There may be less of them, but I don't think they'll ever go away.

Kathy Jack is the general manager of Sue Ellen's in Dallas.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.