Henrietta Hudson, New York City’s oldest lesbian bar, is back
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, New York city’s longest-standing gay bar, Henrietta Hudson, is reopening after shutting down last March 2020.
Not only will this up the population of still-open lesbian bars nationwide (around 15), Henrietta will be redone with a new interior and with an outdoor parklet.
The queer watering hole– located on 438 Hudson Street in Manhattan’s West Village– had a soft reopening on May 1 and will have a grand reopening by mid-May.
A remade Henrietta Hudson from the old
The change-up of Henrietta might surprise the thousands of patrons who were familiar with the previous interior of the dark club when it first opened in 1991.
Henrietta’s owner, Lisa Cannistraci, told Grub Street: “We used to be known as the Madonna of lesbian bars because we were constantly reinventing ourselves.”
“Now we’re Cher– the lesbian bar that wouldn’t die,” Cannistraci quipped.
Despite a closure that lasted 15 months, Henrietta managed to reopen with the help of Cannistraci’s landlord and a crowdfunding campaign that drew US$43,000.
And to mark this new era, Cannistraci enlisted the help of friends with the right expertise, from mixology to the restaurant business.
She explained to Gay City News: “We were at the top of our game in 2019. The 12 hours a week when it was the busiest– it’s gone. Essentially, I’m building a business from scratch.:
What to expect at the new Henrietta Hudson
A small team has been working behind the scenes, but the most visible change to Henrietta will be the custom-designed parklet to complement the street-side seating.
Meanwhile, the new interior will be a cafe lounge with a bright, mid-century design and Palm Springs-like decor.
Molly Adams, Henrietta’s digital director, said, “We’re 30 now. We want to sit down a little bit. It allows us to open to a broader clientele.”
What’s more, the wine list will have bottles produced by women and POC even as the vegan dips will be sourced from Cowgirl, a women-owned establishment on Hudson street.
Cannistraci promised: “We’ll serve the best quality of everything.”
She emphasized that Henrietta is “a queer human space built by lesbians” where, “Inclusivity isn’t even a decision, it’s a reflex.”
The lesbian bar that keeps coming back
Lasting for 30 years, Henrietta’s changes isn’t new with the last revamp being in 2013.
Adams said, “It’s been about learning and honoring our history and carrying it into the future. It’s about still serving the community in a way that is valuable, inclusive, and forward-thinking.”
It is also part of the Lesbian Bars Project, a campaign to save and raise awareness of LGBTQ bars catered to women.
Cannistraci first got a job at the bar in 1985. Five years later, it closed and Lisa– with Minnie Rivera– opened Henrietta. Since 1991, it has been a pillar in the LGBTQ.”
“While it is the longest running lesbian bar in the country, we are a Queer Human Bar. We embrace our entire community and seek to uplift everyone,” it says on their website.