Updated: July 30, 2018 at 6:08 p.m.
Despite the bevy of gay establishments in the District, women have said D.C.’s gay nightlife scene left them behind. Now, two new bar options will cater to the women who have been looking for a space to call their own.
The bar XX+ opened on Sunday as a lounge designed for women and others on the LGBTQ spectrum. On Aug. 8, A League of Her Own will celebrate its grand opening below another recently opened gay bar, Pitchers.
Lina Nicolai, co-owner of Italian restaurant Al Crostino and XX+, decided to repurpose her restaurant’s top floor to serve LGBTQ women. The bar, located at 1926 9th St. NW, operates by a few simple rules: don’t grab others, always ask for pronouns and be kind.
After lesbian bars like Phase One and FAB Lounge closed their doors in 2016 and 2015, Nicolai said there hasn’t been a space for “just ladies in general.”
XX+’s social media director, Tasha, said she immigrated to the United States two years ago from Nigeria – a country where it is illegal to be gay. After her experience growing up in the country, she wanted to help open a space in D.C. where women can meet other women and feel supported.
“There aren’t many woman spaces or just places for anyone who identifies under the queer woman spectrum,” Tasha said. “It’s really important to us, and me personally, to kind of give that space to everyone else so everyone feels welcome and has a family.”
XX+ shares a bar menu with its downstairs neighbor and offers beer, wine and cocktails ranging $7 to $12.
On one side of XX+, cushy chairs surround a bright red pool table, where customers can break the ice with a pool stick. A black and gold bar is situated in the middle of the room and on the far end of the lounge, a small stage that often hosts local DJs and speakers can be watched from sofas and handcrafted stools.
The relaxed atmosphere of XX+ offers an LGBTQ space that isn’t bumping bass-heavy music constantly – something the co-owner said is difficult to find.
“I got the notion that some people don’t always want to go to a party,” Nicolai said. “They want a place to just chill and have a place where they can have more of a conversation.”
Nicolai said she plans to do charity events for LGBTQ causes and hold an 18+ night twice per month for underage people who want to visit the space.
A League of Her Own also intends to respond to community interests when it opens its doors Aug. 9. When Dave Perruzza found the space for his gay bar Pitchers at 2317 18th St. NW – he saw the bar’s lower level and wanted to set up a space for his lesbian friends as well.
“It’s actually really heart wrenching that people are visiting the capital of the United States and we don’t have a lesbian bar, with the amount of gay people and lesbians that we have in the city,” Perruzza said.
The Adams Morgan bar will have the same food menu and happy hour as Pitchers, spanning 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday with $2 off all items, and Sunday with $4 for Smirnoff and domestic brews.
A League of Her Own will also have video games like the upstairs space, but its reclaimed wood and industrial details, with canister lights and a built-in wooden bench, set the space apart from its more colorful counterpart.
When the bar is finally rolled out, expect the space to host open mic nights and charity events dedicated to women-led charities.
Manager Jo McDaniel said the bar is separate from the rest of Pitchers, but guests can traverse between the bars with ease so guests can occupy the space they feel most comfortable.
“Advocating for people who are less comfortable in spaces like this is a huge deal to me,” she said.
McDaniel, who previously worked at Phase One and Cobalt, said she is eager to open and “get bodies in the space” so the leadership can decide what events and specials guests they want.
“The one thing I know is that I don’t know what exactly we need, so I want that feedback to come from the community itself,” McDaniel said.
This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Al Crostino. It has been corrected. We regret this error.