Two bars in the Gayborhood are owned by people of color

Level Up Bar
Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Two bars opened recently in the Gayborhood that are owned and operated by people of color, marking a big culture shift for the LGBTQ enclave in Center City, where racism has been documented for years.

One of the new establishments is Level Up Bar & Lounge, a Black-owned club that took over the old Boxers space at 13th and Walnut. It opened right before the lockdown hit last year, but is now making a name for itself by offering an honestly ridiculous number of performances, meant to cater to a diverse variety of people.

“That’s the main thing - making sure no matter who you are or how you identify, we at least have something once a month that you can come to and feel safe.”
Ken Lowe Jr level up
Ken Lowe Jr
proprietor of Level Up

Just a few blocks away is Cockatoo. The Miami-style cocktail bar, opened in February on 13th Street between Walnut and Locust, is run by Ram Krishnan and Akshay Kamath, who also own Writer’s Block Rehab.

Krishnan believes Level Up and Cockatoo opening within a year of each other is no coincidence.

“When I came out 15 years back, I may have been the only out, brown man in the bars,. There’s a subconscious frustration that builds over time, until you say, ‘Hey, you know what, I think I’ll create the space.'”
Ram Krishnan
Ram Krishnan
owner of Cockatoo

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