Grotto, a sapphic pop-up bar inside the parlor room of Ludlow House, hosted their pre-Valentine’s soiree on February 9. The theme was Baz Luhrman’s 1996 film adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” with partygoers donning white gowns, angel wings, and fake metal armor. Couple and business partners Austa Somvichian-Clausen and Victoria Geddes founded the Lower East Side concept bar in hopes of creating a space for patrons to feel “supported, accepted, and safe,” Somvichian-Clausen told Gay City News.
Barnard students Claire Killian and Lily Pazner came to the event to celebrate Valentine’s day and socialize with other queer women. Pazner, 21, described the experience as “really refreshing.”
“The nightlife scene [in New York City] can be a lot as a queer woman and not always feel the safest so it’s really nice to be in an environment like this,” she told Gay City News.
Killian echoed her friend’s sentiment and commented on how comfortable she felt at Grotto.
“This all just feels very natural,” the 21-year-old said.
Harlem Best friend duo Aliyah Curry and Danielle Guido came to the soiree after getting tickets from a friend. Curry was struck by how at ease she felt there in comparison to typical nightlife scenes.
“It feels very safe. I feel very myself, very chilled, very laid back versus a night at a regular bar,” Curry said.
Both women noted how “amazing” it felt to be at an event for women loving women that Guido said “aren’t frequent enough.”
This is one of the main reasons the couple decided to open Grotto: a lack of spaces for queer women to socialize in New York City.
“There are currently three lesbian bars in NYC—two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. We just need more of them! We’ve been talking to a lot of Grotto guests about the need for a nice space for the community, where sapphics can go to have a nice drink, bring a date or a group of friends, and actually be able to catch up and take up space. We deserve nice things!” Somvichian-Clausen said.
While Grotto is currently a pop-up, in the future the couple hopes to open up their own permanent location so patrons can enjoy the community they have cultivated for years to come.
“Safe spaces for womxn are especially important, as they are constantly having to safeguard themselves against harassment and fetishization, so we are always thinking of ways that we can make Grotto increasingly safe for them. We want patrons to know that they deserve spaces that feel really good to be in,” Somvichian-Clausen told Gay City News.