The Club in Martinsburg, West Virginia, owned by Dale Gish, has closed its doors just shy of celebrating what would have been there four-year anniversary. With a record breaking attendance of 368 patrons coming through the door the last night raises questions on why would such an amazing venue close down.
We sat down with Dale Gish and got the inside scoop on what has transpired during this sad time for the community. “There are many reasons why it is time to close The Club, such as increasing overhead costs, decreased consumer spending and attendance, the issues of payroll and the personal time and money spent to keep a large nightclub open and successful.”
A few years ago we talked with Dale Gish when The Club first opened and discussed how social changes in society have affected LGBT bars and clubs to where they need to cater not only LGBT persons but open up to all people from all lifestyles. “You cannot segregate anyone simple because you want to call it a gay bar. That concept doesn’t work anymore. If you want to stay in business in a rural area, you have to open your doors to anyone that wants to come out and enjoy themselves.”
This year marked a huge milestone for equality that plays an important role for LGBT friendly establishments with the Supreme Court ruling to legalize same sex marriage. And this means that LGBT persons can enjoy the freedom to go wherever they want and be recognized. “We pushed for equality and now have to accept that it’s here. LGBT patrons no longer have to go to a gay bar to have a good time. Gay people are everywhere and with each passing day it’s getting easier to publicly be accepted for who you are.”
So where does this leave local gay bars? Dale Gish says that these gay clubs are going to have to adapt their format to the changing times. “We considered doing a complete overhaul to a sports bar format but determined that our location would not be the best for that with several others in the area. We have recently learned that our property owners will be selling the entire lot to a developer who will use the space in a far better capacity than I ever could. For years we have been dealing with all kinds of maintenance issues because of the age of our building. There is so much unused space on the property and it will soon be something else.”
The emotions during closing night were apparent with lots of hugs and tears throughout the evening. Dale Gish and his mother, Kitty Gish, usually work over 80 hours a week operating and maintaining The Club. “That’s a lot of time to invest in something to see it go away. Our closing has been an emotional one for so many but there are greater things ahead for us. I have not had a vacation in almost half a decade so I think I will take one.”
As the writer of this story I have been a part of The Club since the beginning. I have had the privilege to be part of many different events: Pride, crab feasts, celebrations, pageants, and many more. All of this has been done by Dale; his mom, Kitty, Coby Myers, the staff and what I call the family. So much love was put into this bar, it’s a shame to know that the community did not appreciate and support this venue over the years. I was there the final, closing night of the bar. I heard the goodbyes, the why’s and the if’s… If what I saw that night, the final night, would have happened more often I would not have had the tears in my eyes when The Club sign was turned off, signifying the permanent closing and end of this amazing LGBT bar and community friendly establishment. This bar will be sadly missed by all in the community.
Thank you Mom, Dale, and Coby for allowing an outsider to be part of your dream. You will all forever be in my heart.
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