Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Friday, May 24, 2024

The first thing Chastity Rose did when he came to Gainesville for college was find the nearest gay bar.

Rose didn’t drive, but fortunately the University Club was in walking distance from the University of Florida campus. He arrived early in the evening when the employees were still setting up for the night. They invited him in.

It was his first bar. He saw his first drag show and met his first lesbian, and he’s been addicted to the club ever since.

It was 2003, and the gay community heralded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas as a step forward for equality. In 2013, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT equality is even closer to being a reality, Rose said.

Rose has seen 10 years of change in the LGBT community through the eyes of the UC, where he was hired in 2007 after 4 years of being a regular.

“I always thought of it as a sanctuary; this is a safe-haven,” Rose said.

Prior to the UC opening, the only gay-friendly venue in town was The Melody Club, located on North Sixth Street, north of Northwest 39th Avenue, far from campus or downtown.

“The Melody Club didn’t really cater to the college student,” said Mark Spangler, owner of the UC. He opened the club in 1990 with his father.

Compared to today’s clubs, restaurants and shops that cater to students and locals alike, downtown Gainesville was boarded up and barren in 1990.

Spangler, a nightclub manager at venues in West Palm Beach and Sarasota at the time, saw potential in the dormant downtown scene. At 28 years old, he borrowed some money from his father and opened the University Club.

The first year was difficult, Spangler said. Only a “gay club” at the time, the UC was ostracized. Spangler recalls people who may have been uncomfortable with the club’s clientele throwing things at its back door and hassling guests, he said.

By featuring bands that appealed to everyone and by making all sexualities feel welcome at the UC, Spangler and his team overcame these initial difficulties, he said.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

“We included everybody that came to the club. Not just gay people, but straight people,” he said. “We helped educate the college students that it was OK to hang out with gay people. Everyone started to hang out at the club.”

The rest of downtown seems to have caught up with UC, however, offering entertainment options for gay and straight people alike.

“It’s just that there’s so much more options for people to do these days. There used to be like 10 clubs, maybe,” Spangler said.

Gay college students may also feel more welcome at other venues now, making the UC less of compulsory safe haven and more of an equally good choice among various other clubs and bars.

“The gay community seems less like a close knit community than it was a few years ago. We had a great core group of people and they all got older and moved away.”

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.