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Fairfax County's first gay bar builds a following in Herndon
The general manager, Wayne P., declined to give his last name and wondered whether he should say anything at all, "because anymore you have to be politically correct." Then, he said: "I'm not going to degrade them in any way, shape or form. But I'll be honest with you, I don't believe in that type of lifestyle. But it's not affecting me or my business at all. As long as they keep it orderly, I don't have a problem with it. Hopefully, they work on it and take care of their business and good for them."
Jimmy Cirrito, the owner of Jimmy's Old Town Tavern, said he welcomed the gayification of So Addictive, which is across the street from his bar. "If somebody's against having a gay bar, then they're against America," he said. "It's freedom. We're all God's people. We do what we want."
Competing with D.C.
Historically, of course, the center of gay nightlife in the region has been the District, where bars such as Apex, Town and Ziegfeld's are like stations of the social cross. Some promoters and bar owners in Northern Virginia have scheduled weekly gay nights (at Majestic and Terra E Mare, both in Falls Church, for instance). But Freddie's, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in March, was the rare full-time gay bar and restaurant until So Addictive's switch. (Gays in Maryland also have limited gay-friendly options, outside of Baltimore; in the D.C. suburbs, there's PW's Sports Bar in Laurel but not much else.)
"We weren't the first in Northern Virginia," said Freddie Lutz, who owns Freddie's. "But when the Hunt Club in Alexandria closed, that gave us the title of the only gay bar in Northern Virginia, which we've kept until now. I don't know why nobody else has opened one. I think it's great that [So Addictive] is opening. We're all one big, dysfunctional family."
One recent night at So Addictive, a song by the flamboyant disco-rock band the Scissor Sisters thumped over the sound system. An hour before the drag show was to begin, Jennings scurried around, talking to customers and checking on performers. "You girls okay?" he said, and the four men who would become women said yes, as did the woman who was turning herself into a drag king.
The dressing room was nothing fancy - a massive container of corn oil sat in a corner, near a meat slicer - but LaCountress Farrington, the reigning Miss Gay Virginia, focused on putting on her face. "I consider So Addictive a very big deal because we have a huge gay community in Fairfax County and they finally have an outlet where they live," the performer said.
At the bar, Dewey Yen watched the crowd file into his establishment. Yen probably wasn't the most obvious candidate to become a pioneering gay-bar owner: A Chinese immigrant who came to the United States to study at the University of Maryland, he's an engineer by trade and straight as a chopstick.
He bought So Addictive two years ago and got the idea for a gay night from a friend of a friend. It only took off, he said, after he hired Jennings, who had worked at Freddie's and at a bar in Richmond - and who eventually drew up the business plan to take So Addictive full gay.
"I like the unique business opportunity," Yen said. If there are 7,000 gays in Herndon and Reston, and 25,000 in Fairfax County (both numbers were guesses because there's no reliable data, according to Gustafson), not to mention underserved gay people in Loudoun and Prince William counties, that seems to offer "great possibilities," Yen said.
Later, a young man walked through the doors, which now have rainbow stickers on them - an addition Yen insisted on, Jennings said, "so everybody would know we're gay." The young man was holding his girlfriend's hand.
"Is this a hookah bar?" he asked Yen as LaCountress Farrington did her furious and fabulous Tina Turner dance in the center of the room.
"This is a gay bar now," Yen said.
The potential customer did a double-take as two men kissed at the edge of the bar. He spun around and left with his girlfriend.
Outside, Shaye Dunn smoked with some friends, next to a sign that said "FFX County's ONLY Gay Club."
"Finally," she said.