by Eric Ginsburg
It wasn’t so much that Matt Cozzi wanted to buy the bar as much as he and business partner Drew Wofford felt like they had to.
After a decade in business, the owner of Q Lounge — later known simply as the Q — planned to close Greensboro’s longstanding gay bar. Located on the edge of downtown in a troubled shopping strip cattycorner to Greensboro College, the Q walked the line between a visible outpost and a hidden safe space, with blacked out windows obscuring any street view and a high fence around the side patio.
Several venues have catered to LGBT residents in the past, though options dwindled as the Warehouse and Time Out — a lesbian staple — closed in recent years. Cozzi and Wofford, who opened the gay nightclub Chemistry, didn’t want to see yet another community hub turn into a memory.
Cozzi, who grew up in Las Vegas, has been working in bars and clubs for 15 years, first in his hometown and then southern Florida before relocating to Raleigh. The muscular bar owner with a close-cropped haircut and a large cross tattoo on his forearm is bisexual, and until opening Chemistry, his industry experience had been in straight venues.
The club he opened with Wofford is fundamentally different than the Q — it’s high energy, he said, where people are dressed to the nines.
“It’s your little baby New York,” he said.
The Q, though, often caters to an older crowd and is the kind of neighborhood-style bar where people can show up in flip-flops and socialize in a more relaxed environment. To make his point, Cozzi noted the weekly board-game days.
When Cozzi and Wofford heard that plans to close the Q were imminent, they felt they had to step in.
“Because of what Q offers the community, I couldn’t see it close,” Cozzi said.
And so a month ago, the two took it over, renaming it Q Bar as a way to pay homage to its roots while signaling a change.
Cozzi built a new bar top and liquor shelves, installed some new lighting and painted the interior and exterior, but for the most part, Q Bar resembles its predecessor. It kept some of the same art on the walls too, as a signal to existing patrons that this is still the dive they love.
The biggest change may be the decision to open up a front window, which required removing a storage area and putting in a cocktail table with chairs. But customers can also expect more aggressively priced drinks and a larger liquor collection, Cozzi said. And some day, they’d like to install a retractable awning to cover the patio, which is one of the city’s nicest overlooked outdoor spaces.
Cozzi entertains thoughts of a small kitchen in the future as well. He’s already selling mugs that say “Q Bar 2016” that patrons can bring to participate in a 50-cent mug special, and intends to release a new design each year.
In its final era under the previous owner, Q had come to be known as more of a lesbian bar than a gay one, Cozzi said, likely due in part to the closure of Time Out. He felt it struggled to do too much, straddling the line between a bar and a club at times, which he described as a losing proposition for everyone. With Chemistry not too far away on Spring Garden Street, Cozzi said the new Q can focus on just being a bar.
But he wants Q Bar to appeal to a broader audience, inviting in more LGBT friendly patrons who are looking for a judgment-free safe space rather than focusing exclusively on LGBT customers. Q Bar will retain its role as an LGBT community institution, he said, gesturing to a sign from the old incarnation that he installed on a wall near the front door proclaiming Q as a gay bar where all are welcome.
Gay bars used to be hush-hush sort of places, Cozzi said, almost like dark dungeons. But as evidenced by the decision stop obscuring the front window, Cozzi believes exposure and an open attitude is now a more beneficial stance, both for the LGBT community and the bar itself.
Visit the new Q Bar at 708 W. Market St. (GSO).