(WM) Promoter and designer Art Smith has launched an online store highlighting defunct LGBTQ bars to honor and preserve community history.
Smith’s TBTeez project, which sells apparel featuring logos from “bars gone by” printed by Teespring, began in late 2019 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Atlanta’s Backstreet. The popular establishment, which opened in 1975 and touted a 24/7 liquor license, was one of the Southeast’s largest gay bars until it 2004 closure.
The design was created with the blessing of its former owner to “transport you back to those long nights on the dance floor.” As Smith wanted to incorporate a charitable element for the anniversary, 75% of proceeds from sales benefited the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The venture was a success, raising almost $800 for the organization from out-of-state marketing alone. Smith sought to expand his efforts and began researching to digitally recreate logos from a number of other shuttered LGBTQ establishments.
The TBTeez shop now has 300 designs from bars throughout the country. It specializes primarily in unisex T-shirts, tank tops and stickers, with more designs on the way. “Everyone likes to reminisce, but often the gay community is not embraced in the way that the mainstream world is,” Smith says.
“You can walk into any mall or large department store and find throwback memorabilia glorifying the products and places of years gone by,” he continues. “There are ‘vintage’ road signs, T-shirts, coffee mugs and decor … but in our world, the pickings are slim.”
A number of Florida’s former LGBTQ hotspots are featured in the collection, from Pensacola to Miami. Included are Orlando’s Palace Club, Peacock Room, SIN and Wylde’s; Sarasota’s Club Tri-Angles and St. Petersburg’s Bedrox, Club Zoo, dt’s, Grand Central Station, Engine Room, Lighted Tree, Red Devil, Sharp A’s, Suncoast Resort and Wedgwood.
The project’s recently unveiled 300th design also hails from St. Petersburg, the Flamingo Resort. The location closed in 2019 after serving the area’s LGBTQ community for more than 10 years.
Tampa venues are among the project’s most heavily featured locales. Designs are offered from 2606, Chrome, Chambers, Club Manilla, El Goya, Flings, flirt, Jungle, Keith’s Bar, KiKiKi III, Knotty Pine, Lounge 714, Metropolis, Old Plantation, PLAY, Pleasuredome, Rene’s Disco, Tampa Eagle, The Male Room, Tracks, Valentines and Wranglers.
While Smith’s focus remains on LGBTQ establishments in the 50s through the 90s, he says it’s his goal to “include as many of our old haunts as possible.” The Flamingo design is a prominent example of that, he notes, so “the time frame is not set in stone.”
“What better way to celebrate our pride than to learn about our colorful past?” Smith says. “It is my hope that these designs will bring back fond memories and, perhaps, even put a smile on your face. This project has certainly taught me a lot about where we came from. That alone makes the effort worthwhile.”
To learn more about TBTeez, visit the project’s website. Watermark readers can also utilize the code “PRIDE2020” throughout the month of June to save 10% on their orders.