Gone are the days of sticky basements, dykes in 2023 want much more


Recently the New York Times published a piece making the bold statement that “the lesbian bar isn’t dead.” Instead, they continued, “It’s Pouring Orange Wine in Los Angeles.”

Yes, that’s right, it seems that lesbians, well those on the west coast of the US at least, are enjoying a renaissance of lesbian culture. And long gone are the days of trashy underground bars with sticky floors, the lesbian bar of 2023 has far more sophisticated intentions.

Ruby Fruit, a trendy wine bar and small plates restaurant for those “sapphically inclined”,  offers sumptuous culinary delights like salt cod croquettes and spicy mortadella with drizzled hot honey, alongside ice cool organic ciders, wines and IPAs. For lesbians cruising Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles it is sensory delight.

As a self-confessed “foodie” the discovery of Ruby Fruit, made me bubble up with jealousy. It also got me thinking about my experience of lesbian bars in the UK and our access to such sapphic, culinary culture. Indeed lesbians in the UK tapping into the food and drink scene makes perfect sense. While we have long endured and even loved, the underground spaces we have inhabited, dykes shouldn’t be excluded from the pleasure of perfectly poured craft beer and beautifully curated hipster aesthetics.

While it seems here in the UK we are some steps behind the LA lesbians, from Glasgow to Bristol there are exciting murmurs of community of a similar flavour.

Sappho’s, a “dŷkey wine n poems night for friends o’ Sappho”, hosted its first event only two weeks ago. The new lesbian night offers pairings of natural wines with poems in a secret, candle-lit, location in Glasgow.

“This is a DIY pop up private gathering open to any n all friends o’ Sappho, ppl vibing with the word dŷke and allies of those ppl. Glasgow’s a village so we probs know you, but cool if not.”

Meanwhile in Bristol, Queer Dinners are a pop-up night that offers three-course dinners, wine and “tales of the queer experience.” While not explicitly a lesbian night, it is lesbian-run and has a big dyke following.

The next step is clearly taking up physical, permanent space, like our friends across the pond. This is a difficult barrier for lesbians to break through, financially and structurally in a society that is both patriarchal and homophobic. However, the demand and the community is clearly there. As the New York Times article continued to point out, establishments like Ruby Fruit disprove the narrative that the lesbian bar is a thing of the past, offering “sad, empty tables and slow, inevitable decline.” So viva la culinary lesbian revolution, small plates restaurants and wine bars we are coming for you.

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