No T, No Shade

If you have not been to ALL AX’S, then why the hell not? This bar has been steppin’ it’s pussy up almost every week. They are doing it for our community and to become a destination spot on the east side of Cleveland. What it needs to get there is you, so make sure you get out there and show them some support.  The weekend of February 22nd was a definitely step up and a history maker for the little town of Willoughby. Queens can pack a house, of that there is no doubt. A Queen throwing a read at a slightly drunk audience can be an amazing thing to witness. No matter if it is a drag show, drag brunch, or even a drag bingo, it is a guaranteed fierce time. Friday, February 22nd was a prime example, All AX’S in Willoughby played host to Veranda L’Ni, Kari Nickels, Aurora Thunder, and Natasshja Norielle. This was the first drag show in Willoughby, at least that I am aware of, and it truly went down in history.

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The show started about 10:30 pm and the house was packed long before the show even started. I am not sure that Billy Welker and the staff was truly ready for the experience that a drag show can bring. The energy and anticipation of the show was amazing and true to queen time telling, it started about twenty minutes late. If you have been to a Veranda show, then you know even late this queen can run the crowd. Her engagement is amazing, and her performance is one of the best I have seen in the Cleveland area. Kari Nickels is another queen that is amazing to watch. And they did not fail in packing the house. As you can see from the pictures, I did not get very close to the stage area, but it shows off the amount of people who turned out to support the show and the bar.

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These Queens worked this crowd, not a one stayed on the stage and posed. Each one of them worked for their all mighty dollars and the people were as eager to hand them out. The floating through the throngs of people, lip syncing for their very lives, as it were.” The crown was intense and the largest that the bar has seen, so far. Yes, there was some waiting for drinks and yes they were a bit understaffed, but the staff at ALL AX’S never walked away from taking care of us, never complained, and did their best to provide the service needed. Yes, there will be growing pains along the way, but Billy Welker and his staff will not be scurred away. I mean damn, how many other bars have you been to have called in all they support to help out and even bring in people from the crowd to help serve everyone? That’s right, henny, not many. Special shout outs to Dennis Baker for rolling up his sleeves, although we tried to get him to take off his shirt instead, jumping in to help run dishes to the kitchen and serving drinks to those who were waiting.

Now if you missed this show, have no fear they will be back to take our money and wow us again. This time make sure yo ass is in attendance. March 8th and then again March 22nd will bring back Veranda L’Ni and her crew. So, get out ya stripper change and bring yo’self out and tips those bitches. Oh, and buy some drinks, after all the bartenders are there to serve…. Just not shade.

 

The T On All AX’S

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Friday February 15, 2019 was the first LGBTQ night after All AX’S had their grand opening as an LGBTQ inclusive bar two weeks before. I wanted to check it out to see the differences from that visit. The idea of having a LGBTQ bar destination on the east-side of town is still an amazing idea. While many people feel the decline of LGBTQ bars is no big deal, I feel that it is important is providing structure to a community especially in a part of town that doesn’t have a lot of LGBTQ options.

Billy Welker is the owner behind All AX’S and is committed to making this spot all inclusive. A few of us had reached out to give a few suggestions on how to get the word out to the local community. One easy one that I suggested was to get equality stickers or rainbow stickers so that anyone would be able to identify it as a safe place. Upon walking up to the bar, we noticed the stickers in the main windows. Not overly stated, but if you know what you are looking for, they are a nice reminder that this bar is welcoming. Just peeking into the bar, it was easy to notice that there were more people this time.

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You could hear the music from the outside and was a nice beat. I knew that it was going to be DJ Toni Freeze and her set is always good. Always a great combination of modern and classic dance beats. There was about 20 people in the bar and was a good turnout of only the second publicized night of it being a LGBTQ club. The vibe of the bar was warm and fun, all seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. If you read the first review of the bar, I mentioned that it had a kitschy atmosphere that is truly inviting. The walls are covered with vinyl record album covers, strings of multicolored lights stretch between the columns of the bar, bright mirrors behind the liquor selection gives it a larger appearance.

The have a good selection of beers and liquor and the prices are really good. A few beers and couple mixed drinks definitely do not set you back as much as many of the places downtown. The drinks are mixed well and skew a bit more to the liquor side, rather than the mixer. Their beer selection offers a lot of local flavors, as well as plenty larger labels. Food menu is more to just bar foods. You can find shrimp baskets, burgers, wings and fries, plenty enough to help soak up the night of drinking. There is a patio out back and will be awesome once the weather warms up for enjoying it.

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Many people were saying how awesome it was or that they couldn’t believe there was a gay bar in Willoughby. So, the word is out, and people are reacting to it. The entire time I was there I only heard a couple people have anything to say that wasn’t tinged with excitement. There were a few heterosexual people who did ask if the people in the bar were gay. Once they answered, that was about it. Only one seemed to make any kind of joke about it. The bar stayed busy up until about midnight, when I left.

I talked with Ms. DJ Toni Freeze and she asked how we liked the music. I told her that it was a great mix of songs, current Top 40 and back to the 80s. She mentioned that she thought people were reacting well to what was being played and that she tried changing up the music depending on the people that were in the bar. We talked a bit more about her set and style of music and she was happy that Billy offered her a reoccurring gig at the bar. I feel that her style of music will be a good balance for all people that come to the bar and not alienate any particular group. DJ Freeze also has a website for being able to download music she has put together and you can download them here.

This Friday, All AX’S will be hosting a drag show starring Veranda L’NI and will host Kari Nickels, Aurora Thunder, and Natasshja Norielle. The show starts at 10:30 with no cover charge, I mean how can you beat that. This will be a good measure of how the success of the bar will be. If you are in the area you really need to come out and give your support to the bar and check out a good show. I have seen Veranda several times, since I have moved to Cleveland and she always puts on a great show and works the crowd well.

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Billy Welker is doing everything he can to make this a destination and it is going to take you guys coming out and supporting it. If you have ideas of things you would like to see at the bar, you can drop a line in the comments section or better yet, visit the bar and let the staff know. Show your support and interest. Let’s make it a fun place to be and make the bar a success.

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All Axs: A LGBTQ Night Review

Okay squirrel friends, I decided to get back to what this blog was to be about and review things from a gay man in Cleveland’s perspective. So today I bring you a review of a new bar in Willoughby, Ohio and their plans to make it more inclusive for our community. Bear with me as I share my feelings over this review.

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On January 26th, I received a post on Facebook regarding an invite to an event near me, in Willoughby, Ohio. Bill Hartman posted in the Gay Men in Cleveland group that there was going to be a “Grand Opening” for a possible East Side Cleveland location as a LGBTQ friendly bar. Of course, I was excited, being an Eastsider. I go to Willoughby often, on the outward, it appears to be a very welcoming town. It boasts a fantastic pagan shop called Enchanted Grove that is owned by someone I have known for the better part of 18 years. So, the very thought of there being a place that was inclusive of LGBTQ people really excited me. The bar that would host the event only recently opened in October of 2018 and is called All Axs.

Prior to the February 2nd event for LGBTQ, I stalked their Facebook page to learn as much about them as possible. From the page I could tell that it was a rock bar, obviously, because of the name All Axs. The owner of the bar is younger and has high hopes of the success of the bar. The location of the bar was previously a restaurant known for a great burger Willoughby. The owner had retired from the business a few years back and it had changed hands and became a bar that closed before this new iteration. According to the post on Gay Men in Cleveland it was an event to be billed as “A gay bar on the East side of Cleveland? A new adventure in the heart of the downtown Willoughby scene! Hopefully if all goes well, there will now be an East side option!” The time frame of the event was between 7pm and 2am on Friday February 2nd.

A friend of mine decided to head out with me to share in the experience of the prospect of an east side gay bar. We met for dinner at Nickleby’s in Willoughby and then head to the bar. Upon arrival it was a cute little old school rock bar. Walking in I was met with a riff from Lynyrd Skynyrd and quickly brought me back to my southern roots. Three older gentlemen at the corner of the bar welcomed us and said looked like I loved the kind of music playing over the speakers and not that rap crap. It gave me a slight chuckle. It was a small crowd, we were two of about nine people in the bar. This quickly told me that I may have either arrived too late or miscalculated the date. Once inside, we both order a Jack and Coke and I pull out my phone to check Facebook. There I notice that Bill and his crew had arrived about two hours earlier, which would have made it a bout 7pm. I responded that I had just got there and sorry that I missed him. He responded that they were also going to do an event on the next night, Saturday February 3rd, and have DJ Toni Freeze there. I decided to just enjoy the night and see how the bar feels and progresses.

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The crowd stayed small while we were there and to my dismay no another LGBTQ person came in. It was predominantly heteronormative couples complaining that the crowd was small. The bartender, Kat, mentioned that the crowd varied dramatically depending on the day. I headed to the restroom and noted that the decor of the restroom was one of the gayest things I had seen anywhere. There were album covers from the 60s to 80s that included Joan Baez to Pat Benatar. There was even a Steve Martin album cover of him in drag. It was kitschy and amazing all at once. I felt this would be a very cool spot for an LGBTQ inclusive bar.

Once I got back, I looked to my friend and mentioned that maybe I should ask about the turn out for the LGBTQ event that was supposed to have taken place earlier. I pulled up the event on my phone and asked Kat how the event went earlier. Her initial response was that it wasn’t tonight, it was another night. I showed her the date and said it was supposed to happen earlier tonight. Once we started talking about how the event went, Kat confided in me that she liked be bartender, but he was young and had weird ideas. Her opinion was that if it was going to continue that it should only be held once a month. She felt the clientele wouldn’t be receptive to it. She continued to say that if it was to happen that she would prefer it to be held in the other side of the bar and have their own DJ or whatever. Kat confided that the staff may not be as accepting as the owner would be, that he was young and had a lot of ideas.

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At this point, apparently, she didn’t know that I was gay. So, I decided to let her know the reason I came to the bar was because of the event. Her face changed at that point and she quickly said, “Oh by door swings both ways so I am not against it, but the town may not be as encouraging.” After I outed myself to her, she did to tell me how accepting she is of LGBTQ people, even in her own life. Like I said, Kat is an amazing bartender. Responsive to her guests, always has a quick turn of phrase, and makes you feel at ease. In my years of coming to Willoughby, I have never had a problem feeling, that being a gay man, that I wouldn’t be accepted. Like I mentioned earlier, I am friends with a shop owner in downtown Willoughby and she is very accepting of LGBTQ people and talked of how welcoming Willoughby is, so this was a bit of a shock to me.  

I have high hopes for the possibility of having a location on the east side of Cleveland where LGBTQ can go and feel accepted. Whether or not this is the bar for this to happen is a harder thing to discuss. It has only been open for about four months and it’s just starting to develop its character. Over all, the bar and the experience was fun. The people were down to earth and welcoming. Kat was an amazing bartender and that means a lot in a bar. The atmosphere was fun with its nod to classic rock, even over Pandora, and had a small but good selection of beer. The Jack and Coke that I had was well mixed and not watered down like in many bars. I hope there was enough turn out tonight and tomorrow that would warrant the owner to continue having LGBTQ events. I think having more of a dance club atmosphere and maybe even moving to performances could be an asset to the establishment, but it is hard to gauge from the outside. It’s early, but I hope for the best. It would be great to have a place on this side of town to go to and have fun.
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