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History of Portland, Maine Lesbian & Gay Bars

Cocktail Mary logo with an uppercase M and a coastal town vibe in pink and purple..

Cocktail Mary is proud to be a part of the lineage of Portland, Maine's lesbian and gay bars. It may come to some people as a surprise that Portland Maine's first gay bar, Roland's Tavern, opened on Cumberland Ave. in 1968 around the same time the historic Stonewall Inn opened. Accustomed to their own local harassment by police and homophobes, Roland's was unassuming and laid out in a way that allowed same-sex dancing without being viewed from the front entrance. Nearby, on Oak Street, The Phoenix nightclub opened in 1977 as a discotheque and queer nightlife was more on display and operated until the early 1980s when a fire forced them to close their doors.  One of Portland's longest-running gay bar locales, Styxx (previously Rumors, The Underground, and Limelight) operated from 1980 to New Year's Day 2017 at 3 Spring St near the Cross Insurance Arena.  

Today, the state of the dyke bar is endangered, but there was a time when Portland, Maine, albeit small in population, had multiple thriving lesbian bars - Sisters, Avies, a dyke bar near Kennedy Park, and others. Sisters, aptly named as it was opened by two sisters, ran from 1995-2005 at 45 Danforth and was a low-key, inexpensive lesbian destination to play pool. What is now Flask began as a queer space, being previously known as Spring Street Gym (1982-1985), Entré Nous (1985-1990), Chart Room (1990-1997), Somewhere (Late 1990s), Somewhere Else (Early 2000s), Spring Street (2005-2014)]. It was a place one could feel comfortable to be themselves and find community without being stared at. On the West End, Blackstones, a gay bar, has been in operation since 1987. We are pleased by Mary opening to help stretch the rainbow of queer space to the East End. There were other queer gathering spaces throughout Maine, such as in Ogunquit and Augusta. While this isn’t an exhaustive history by any means of Portland’s lesbian and gay bar scene, we think it’s important to share some insights into our town’s past and acknowledge those that came before us.


Cocktail Mary continues to hold space for trans, queer, lesbian, and gay Mainers as well as visitors to our LGBT-friendly town. As the queer nightlife scene has become less stratified, Cocktail Mary creates inclusive space for LGBT events, gathering with loved ones, meeting your neighbors, and simply enjoying tasty beverages.


Source: USM Special Collections LGBTQ+ Collection 

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