Film and TV

Phoenix Lesbian Nightspot Boycott Bar Stars in a New Documentary Series

As Boycott Bar owner Audrey Corley readied for her final hours of filming with The Lesbian Bar Project, she was trying to take it all in.

“To get recognized – just the appreciation of what you do and to see your life’s work come together, I can’t put it into words,” Corley said of the experience.

Boycott Bar is one of three lesbian bars in the country that will be featured in a new docuseries airing this fall. The Lesbian Bar Project was created to raise awareness – first through a short film and giving campaign in 2021 and now in this series – of the 21 remaining lesbian bars in the U.S. This small number is down from an estimated 200 in the 1980s.

Elina Street, who directed the Boycott episode, said the series gave her and fellow director Erica Rose the opportunity to expand the stories of these bars and understand the communities each serves. Boycott is the only specifically lesbian bar in the Southwest and often caters to the Latinx community, she added.

“Patrons we met at Boycott told us they could feel safe there, and that there were very few places where they felt safe in Phoenix,” Street wrote in an email. “Boycott prides themselves on staying open every holiday to welcome everyone who needs a safe space to go.”

Street points out that the closures prompted by the pandemic have made people realize these spaces, “not just lesbian bars but … every space that caters to a marginalized community," have been taken for granted.

click to enlarge
Audrey Corley and Boycott Bar (below) are the subjects of a new docuseries highlighting the remaining lesbian bars in the United States.
Sara Crocker
“The bar owners and their staff have gone out of their way to keep their small businesses alive,” she said. “Now the community has to step up to show up for their bars and do their part.”

Boycott started as a roaming dance party over 17 years ago. It will mark 18 years on July 16. The brick-and-mortar space opened in Phoenix's Melrose District, a neighborhood that is home to many of the city's gay bars, in 2017.

The small space features rainbow-painted parking spaces and murals decorating the walls. Throughout the pandemic, the bar continued serving the community through takeout cocktails.

Corley says her first experience with The Lesbian Bar Project in 2021 “restored my faith in people.”

“If you didn’t come out better after the pandemic, you didn’t learn the lessons of the pandemic,” Corley said. “From a business standpoint, we came out stronger and better.”

click to enlarge
Courtesy of the Lesbian Bar Project.
She hopes the number of lesbian bars will grow as a result of this project.

“I think if you look back in history, how far we’ve come as a community, it hasn’t always been easy and it still isn’t easy to live your truth and your identity,” Corley said. “I think it’s getting more accepting, and that’s what I want to keep happening. I always want there to be a safe space.”

Corley says that Boycott Bar, which was named Phoenix New Times’s Best Lesbian Bar in 2021, has remained relevant because they create a space for everyone.

“It’s a whole vibe we create,” she said. “You’re free to be yourself.”

On the heels of Pride Month, Corley also asks people to show compassion for others.

“Don’t hate someone for who they love," she said. "I want people to accept people and their truth."

She hopes the Lesbian Bar Project, which has taken her from the bar to her old stomping grounds at Phoenix College, where she was a student, teacher, and basketball coach, will help spread this message.

The limited series will also spotlight bars in Chicago and Houston. It will debut in October, marking LGBT History Month, and will stream for free on The Roku Channel.