Scoping the room for available women, a tall twentysomething guy approaches the bar with a few buddies, his curly blond hair peeking out of a striped knit cap. After ordering a drink, he turns to his three friends.
"There's a lot of guys here," he says, disappointedly surveying the crowd.
He's right. For ladies' night at Down Under--a club known as a meat market--the gender ratio is certainly tipped the wrong way. Instead of a roomful of women, there's a crowd of men filling the main lounge--men standing in pairs and groups, laughing and drinking and greeting each other with hugs. But the young guy on the prowl for ladies shouldn't worry about competition. Some of the guys in this crowd have their arms casually wrapped around each other, while others check out the available men lurking near the walls.
This past Thursday, October 18, the Down Under was taken over by Guerrilla Queer Bar, a group of Seattle queers who pick a random bar--one ordinarily patronized by a straight crowd--and show up for a good time. Over 50 gay men converged on the Belltown bar at the appointed 9:00 hour.
"I love it. I think it's awful how the straights are always invading our bars," says Jamey, a 25-year-old blond with glasses who declined to give his last name. "Now it's our turn."
"You go to Neighbours [a Capitol Hill dance club] on a Saturday night," says one of Seattle's GQB organizers, who's celebrating his birthday (he won't say which one) at Down Under, his white turtleneck glowing as bright as the cobwebs overhead. "And all the straights, all the girls are there, looking for a safe space. Let's turn it around."
The GQB idea was born in San Francisco in the spring of 2000, started by a few gay men tired of the gay bar scene. Following the huge success in San Francisco (they recently threw a leather-themed party at the posh W Hotel), cities like New York, Houston, San Diego, and Atlanta copied the idea. Seattle's guerrilla group sprang up in July, when a few guys decided to give it a shot.
The organizers try to stay anonymous, e-mailing announcements and just showing up at the chosen bar to enjoy the party. Interested queers sign up for the monthly invite through the group's website [www.geocities.com/gqbsea], and announcements come out a few days before the event.
The Down Under e-mail notice was sent on Monday, October 15 to 440 Seattle queers. Thursday night's crowd was almost all men, though women are on the list and encouraged to join.
"Right now it seems like more men," says GQB regular J. Steve Mayo, a 37-year-old in a white tank top, with long straight hair down to his waist. "I know a lot of lesbians who aren't into the bar scene."
"We want lesbians. We want the queer experience," one of the GQB organizers says. "Where are all the lesbians?" The group would like to invade Hooters one night, or rent a bus and go to Kirkland bars.
The Down Under was GQB's fourth event--they inaugurated the group at Belltown Billiards in late July.
"I sent out 150 e-mails on a Wednesday morning," says the founder, a 30-year-old Seattle attorney. "I was pretty nervous. I didn't know if anyone would show up." A few days later, 60 people stormed the pool hall and bar.
In August, GQB went to Watertown, a dance club on Lower Queen Anne with a wall of bubble mirrors and high-backed leather booths. The group's organizer says close to 200 people showed up.
"We packed it. [Thursday is] usually a quiet night there," Mayo says, sipping an energy drink. "A straight couple came in. The look on the girl's face--I'm sure--was 'Why are all these guys cuter than my boyfriend?'"
Watertown owner Keith Robbins says they were surprised when GQB stopped in--the Thursday night staff wasn't entirely there yet, so a solo bartender had to keep up with the orders until backup arrived.
"I wish we had a little bit of notice so we could have been better staffed, but I guess that's not part of the program," Robbins says. "We thank them for thinking of us."