Alternative ‘R Bar’ is a positive addition to Downtown Fort Collins

Laurel Thompson

Downtown Fort Collins came alive with Christmas lights, art and excitement on November’s First Friday as the city celebrated its annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony and its newest addition to the bar scene: R Bar.

The alternative, LGBTQ-friendly bar and lounge opened Nov. 6 at 107 E. Laurel St. and reached capacity 45 minutes later, as the diverse crowd formed an endless line outside its doors. Given the growing acceptance of LGBTQ members in contemporary society, it was clearly time for a gay bar in Fort Collins.

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As a straight female, neither my sexual orientation nor my gender have altered my acceptance and support of the queer community. In fact, I have several friends who identify as either lesbian, gay or bi-sexual, and I have felt their desire for the ability of shameless expression and societal acceptance in their schools, families, churches and jobs. To see these people—whether they are friends or strangers—constantly being misjudged, labeled and ignored strikes a nerve in me as I cannot help but to imagine myself feeling unsafe and ashamed for something beyond my control.

Though it is long overdue—given the advancement of society in terms of everything technology, business and education—the queer community’s rights are finally being recognized in modern American society. Like the recent legalization of gay marriage, new places like the locally-owned R Bar are destroying the barriers that once attempted to silence and isolate LGBTQ people from the rest of humanity.

In a society so concentrated on conventionality, those who do not fit traditional, normative standards need opportunities to feel comfortable and accepted. When considering the existing accommodations for minority groups in Fort Collins, women, the disabled, religious and ethnic minorities are provided for—to some degree—but aside from alliance groups, R Bar is really the first contribution to the LGBTQ community’s expression in Fort Collins.

Owners Lisa Dunn and CSU alum Leanna Valadez, said their mission for R Bar is to provide a safe haven for LGBTQ members’ identities.

“Until now, Fort Collins didn’t have a cohesiveness for people like that here,” Valadez said. “We wanted there to be a place for comfortable expression that is all-inclusive for people of all walks of life.”

Part of what makes R Bar so inclusive are its gender-neutral bathrooms—a relatively new idea that has also been implemented at CSU in the new Eddy building. I am aware that many people find this unnecessary and even absurd, but it is insensitive to form an uneducated opinion about something that caters to others and does you no harm in the process. Who has ever been hurt by inclusiveness, anyway? Let’s support one another and respect their needs—no matter how different from our own.

In a community like Fort Collins that values uniqueness and authenticity, places like R Bar are not only necessary, but successful. Neighboring stores and restaurants welcome the business R Bar brings to the area, and places like the Downtown Artery are already brainstorming ways to contribute to the bar’s art and music dynamic. The fact that the bar reached capacity within 45 minutes of opening in a city with one of the greatest numbers of restaurants and bars per capita shows not only the generally unknown prominence of LGBTQ residents in Fort Collins, but the city’s readiness for a more diverse downtown scene. R Bar may have opened the doors of opportunity for other entrepreneurs’ unconventional business ideas and unique contributions to the city’s sense of place.

Collegian Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.