From Slammers' Instagram account: @slammersbar
Slammers: “All walks, one groove”
Slammer’s is the only lesbian bar that is still open in Columbus—and in all of Ohio. It was opened by Marcia Riley and a friend in 1993, and now Marcia is the sole owner. She considered selling the bar before the pandemic, but her plans were interrupted by the statewide shutdown of bars and restaurants. The bar survived by taking out loans and by the help of community-based mutual aid. Slammers raised $8,500 through a GoFundMe campaign that was started by the former manager, Nikki West. Slammers also received aid from the Lesbian Bar Project, a fundraising campaign that raised $117,504, which was divided among the 15 lesbian bars that still exist in the United States. You can see Slammers in the Lesbian Bar Project Documentary here!
We also had the pleasure of interviewing Bobbi Moore, the current general manager of Slammers. She talks about her experience with the bar, its significance for her, and how the bar gives back to the community in Columbus. We were fortunate enough to get an audio interview with her where she could express her gratitude for Slammers in her own words. What follows is a transcript of that interview.
Bobbi Moore [BM]: I think [Slammers] started out as an exclusive women's bar, but it definitely has evolved into, you know, [as] Marsha Riley, the owner, has for her slogan, logo, whatever you want to call it as "all walks one groove." And that's really what it's evolved into. We are very accepting of everyone. We like to say that we're a women's bar, just because that's how it started. But anybody is welcome. I'm amazed when I come in here some days because you just see such a difference in age groups. You have the women who've been coming here for the past 20 years. This is their home spot. And then you have these up and coming new 21-year-old lesbians who are like "yeah, you know, I have a place I can go. I can go and take my girlfriend and nobody's gonna look at me weird if I want to reach over and hug her kiss her on the cheek or hold her hand walking through the bar." We can go here have a have dinner; we're gonna see other couples doing the same thing we're doing. So, it's really evolved into just a home base for so many people. And that's how it started off for me. I needed a home base.
Jayasree Sunkireddy [JS]: Why don't we ask [about] your involvement because you're saying that you're noticing these things, but what is your involvement with Slammers and why it's so important to you?
BM: Well, um, just a brief history on how I came here. I was going through a divorce from my partner at the time, and I felt very just secluded. I lived up in Delaware, Ohio, [and there’s] not a huge gay scene there. My family's from Columbus. And so, when I was in the process selling my house, I just needed a part time job. And so, a friend of mine who has worked here on and off since I think 1997 said, "They're hiring it Slammers. Why don't you to contact Marcia and at the time Nikki, who was the manager, and see if you get an interview."
So, I did.
And within a couple days, I was working here as a server. Within two weeks, Marcia promoted me to bartender. That was three years ago, and it has evolved into me now being the general manager, that just this past Friday, this place to me was something that I really needed when I felt very alone. You know, I was out there in Delaware by myself and I was like, "I just need to be around people." I need to be around my people, you know, people who feel and act and do the same things I like to do, and I just want to feel at home somewhere. And immediately, that's how I felt here.
You know, the thing is, now, [queer women] can go anywhere. And we can go anywhere and have dinner and we can sit across from our partner and not really be stared at anymore. However, we have kept this like exclusiveness at [Slammers]. So, we are a clear [Lesbian] bar. We're holding on tight to that. We, you know, we're one of like, the last few in the United States. And I think that has really brought so many people to us. And they come here, and they know they're going to be treated how they want to be treated, how they deserve to be treated.
They're going to be accepted.
I mean, when I tell you all walks of life, all walks of life. Come here and all walks of life are welcome here.
The [evolution] I've seen in the past, you know, little over three years I've been here is that we have a lot of heterosexual men coming here. I think it's bridging a gap that I think has been, you know, so far apart for so long that it's just like I said: Anybody can come in here and sit and be comfortable and grab a pizza. You can have a coke, they can have a beer, they can have a cocktail, and you know, they can sit at the bar. And it's just nice to see all people getting along in one space.
Ali Alkhalifa [AA]: But I will say, with that space, you're talking about how it's kind of like a space for everyone to meet and convene, and be kind together? How has the pandemic affected that space? How have you guys adapted?
BM: Well, I'll tell you, our food is what kept us alive here. We had to let go, or put people on hold. You know, we kept just very few essential people, I was not one of them. I did not work for many months during the pandemic, if they called me and needed something I came in. And then once business started picking up, we, you know, started giving shifts back to people; we did lose some great employees during that time.
We're still trying to build back up from that. But it was rough on [Marcia]. I mean, she did everything she could to continue paying her employees and to keep her business going. And, you know, it broke her heart to see some people go.
She's a one man show. It's a small business. But she compensates everybody for any little thing they do. She is just, you know, she's just the best employer, she really is very generous, very giving. Appreciative. There was a time or two that I feared that things were looking not so great. But she was determined to pull through it. And [Marcia] did. And the ones that were like not going anywhere, me being one of them. I was like "when you need me back, I'm back."
But I was also fortunate enough to have a full-time job at that time. So other people, you know, like people who do this full time, they needed to go somewhere where they could make money so that they could survive. But she pulled through, and the pandemic definitely affected us.
AA: What are some events that you guys can now host or at least used to host?
BM: One of the really major events that we've been hosting for years, and I don't know, maybe like 15 or more years, I don't know exactly what year it started. But we do a Pub Crawl that we host every year for Pets Without Parents. And so all the proceeds that we make on the raffle and things like that go to Pets Without Parents. We have one woman who has been the host of that for years, and she has a huge following. This year we did that on a much smaller scale.
We did a lot of the advertising on social media, and they could buy raffle tickets. And they did not have to be here to claim their ticket. We just got their phone numbers. And, you know, we told them don't feel like you have to be here. But we still had a great turnout. And that's always right around St. Patrick's Day. So even [with] our limited seating, we still had a great turnout for that.
We used to host Trans Tuesday. [Offering] a safe space for transgender folks to come in and hang out and talk and whatever they wanted to do. You know, as far as intermingling with other people in the community, specifically in their communities to where they could talk about issues or whatever else they're going through. We do Drag Bingo. And [Drag Bingo's] proceeds all go to Kaleidoscope [a center for queer youth assistance and education].
Also, we're getting ready to start selling a book for a local author. Gosh, I wish I had that info. She wrote a book about sex trafficking survivors in Ohio. So, we're going to start selling that and 100% of the proceeds of that book go straight to survivors and helping people come out of that safely.
Obviously, we want to keep the money local. You know, there's tons of federal money for larger operations with these smaller ones we're trying to survive right now. You know, anything we can do to help. I want to mention that there have been patrons throughout the years who have come down with chronic conditions and we have hosted fundraisers to help pay help pay for their house, things like that.
We just recently started collaborating with Rainbow Upper Arlington. And I was unaware that Arlington has no protections for the LGBTQ community. None. So, schools, jobs, businesses there, they can discriminate. I had no idea they reached out and asked if we could donate a food gift card to their organization. We were like, "Yes, absolutely!" And then they came in to meet me personally when they picked it up. They asked if we could start hosting their happy hours so that, once they're done meeting just on zoom, they would like to all get together and start meeting in person again.
[End of transcript.]