Last Friday I ended up stopping into Mixology on Forest Avenue to grab a beer and chat with bar owner John McNeil about a possible expat/repat event series this winter. When I first walked into the bar I noticed that there were a bunch of girls in the corner, a few of which I knew. I walked over to them and they kinda looked at me like… ummm… what are you doing here? (not in an unfriendly way, but in a curious manner.) It was my friend Christina Holdsworth who then asked, “Are you covering this for Buffalo Rising?” I confessed that I didn’t know what she was talking about. Then she said, “Ambush?” I told her that I was in the dark, and she explained, “It’s a lesbian event – a Guerilla Gay Bar!”
After learning that I had just walked into a guerilla lesbian gathering, I decided that I would stick around since John was in no position to chat – every couple of minutes the front door would open and a bunch of girls would walk in. Before long I found myself being crowded away from my bar stool (photo below), staring at the vast number of women who were steadily streaming into the joint. Not only did it appear that Ambush was strong in numbers, it also occurred to me (and John) just what sort of gangbuster business the bar was in store for that evening. John later told me that it was one of the best nights that the bar had ever experienced… the women stayed until the early hours of the morning and partied the night away. I ended up staying for one more beer, enjoyed multiple conversations with the ‘patronettes’, and stuck around just long enough to see that the bar was running out of sitting and standing room.
It was the next day when Christina Holdsworth (the co-founder of Buffalo’s Ambush) reached out to me to see if I was interested in getting the word out to Buffalo Rising viewers regarding the initiative. I then asked her to send me some info as to how the idea came about and she sent along the following:
“I came up with this idea after becoming frustrated by the lack of a nice lesbian bars in Buffalo where we could casually gather with friends and meet other women. When expressing my frustration to a friend who has lived in other large cities, she told me about a concept that has taken root in Boston, Chicago, New York City and beyond. This concept is often referred to as “Guerrilla Gay Bar.” It generally consists of a group of gay men or women “taking over” a straight bar at least once a month.
“With the help of co-organizer Holly Christiano (photo: Holly on left and Christina on right), we started a FB page and named our group “Ambush,” to signify lesbian women “ambushing” a straight bar once a month. The response to our idea was overwhelming. I had no idea how many women were looking for something like this; a casual, relaxed environment where they could have a beer and chat with old friends while meeting new. Within a matter of days the word of mouth had spread to over 400 women in the Western New York area (see Facebook).
“Our first event brought approximately 80 to 90 women through the doors of Mixology (info), packing the bar and quickly going through the bar’s entire beer stock. We had women there ranging from early 20s to late 60s. Couples, singles, professionals, students.
“Everyone was incredibly friendly and the energy was invigorating. After just one evening, there was a new sense of community which Buffalo has been lacking. The enthusiasm has not waned since the event; Holly and I receive messages on a daily basis from women asking when the next event will be.
“Our plan is to hold a happy hour event once a month at a different “straight” but gay-friendly bar. Considering the fact that we can easily draw 50-100 women per event, we are hoping that businesses will come forward and express interest in hosting our group. The owner of Mixology enthusiastically thanked us for hosting our event and remarked on how friendly everyone was. In addition to affording our community with a new socializing avenue, we would like to provide new business and exposure for gay-friendly “straight” bars in the area.
“If people are interesting in knowing more, or if businesses would like to contact us about hosting, we can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”