Although the Athens bar scene is conspicuously lacking a gay bar, Athens Uncorked, a wine bar located at 14 Station St., has found itself to be a haven for pro-LGBTQ events. With a pride flag hanging outside its window, it is hub of fun, with regular events planned for a population less catered-to.
Athens Uncorked will host its monthly drag show Friday. The “March Madness” show will feature special guests from Columbus, a DJ, special cocktails and more.
Athens Uncorked has a laid-back, calming environment. Similar to a coffeehouse, it has an easygoing, hang-out spot vibe where one can kick back and drink wine with friends — which could be why some are surprised to learn about the regular drag shows.
“A lot of people are really surprised,” Cody Feiler, a manager at Athens Uncorked, said. “They see us like this, and we tell them we have a drag show they ask, ‘Where do you do this?’”
Athens has a thriving bar scene. With its off-Court location, Athens Uncorked may not be as well known as other bars. Because it isn’t Uptown and instead is tucked away on the sleepy West Side, it isn’t as popular with the undergraduate crowd.
“It’s our blessing and curse,” Feiler said.
Athens Uncorked, however, maintains a steady draw. Regulars make for familiar faces, Feiler said.
“A lot of people like to come here. They want to be in a more quiet, more adult environment, and we offer that,” Feiler said. “We have a library and board games, and everyone kind of chats quietly.”
There’s a bar of every kind. Lucky’s Sports Tavern is a sports bar, the Smiling Skull Saloon is a biker bar, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery serves craft beer. But there is a glaring absence of one niche bar: a gay bar.
“I’ve had plenty of people come in here asking me where the gay bar is,” Feiler said. “Athens doesn’t really have a gay bar.”
That doesn’t mean Athens isn’t gay-friendly, just that the designated space of a gay bar isn’t really here, Feiler said.
“Everyone’s kind of cool with whatever you subscribe to,” Feiler said. “Then again, people are like, ‘We need a gay bar.’ You’d be at home wherever you went, but there are very few events for the LGBTQ community.”
That’s in part why Athens Uncorked decided to host regular drag nights. The shows began after Athens had its Pride Parade and have been ongoing for a few years now, Feiler said. The shows take place the second Friday of every month.
The turnout for the first drag show was spectacular, Feiler said. It inspired the owners of Athens Uncorked to collaborate with performers to provide a venue for drag in Athens.
“I feel like with the pride show, Athens Uncorked sort of became the unofficial gay bar for Athens,” said Jessica Hayes, a frequent guest-performer at Athens Uncorked.
Athens Uncorked also offers special drinks and cocktails for its drag shows. Their special that night is called the “Uncorked Doll.”
“It's a sweet, pretty drink we sell for cheap at $5,” Feiler said. “We make pitchers of it. It doesn’t matter what goes into it, as long as it’s pretty and pink. They’re usually really popular because they’re inexpensive, and we can make them quickly.”
Drag shows at Athens Uncorked feature the Uncorked Dolls, a group of seven to nine frequent performers. Drag queens, or female impersonators, often lip-sync, dance and do comedy routines. Occasionally, a queen will sing or perform an original song.
Hayes described these drag shows as “traditional.”
“Big hair, big fashion, loud music; just a great chance to entertain,” Hayes said. “People who come to the show absolutely love it.”
The performers also interact with the crowd. Athens Uncorked is a smaller space, with capacity of around 147.
“It’s a not as big of a venue, which, actually, I really like,” Hayes said. “It’s a very intimate crowd and a lot of familiar faces, like a family, like you're coming home.”
Chris Nevil is one of many who will perform as an Uncorked Doll on Friday night.
“My drag character is Kazma Knights,” Nevil said. “She’s kind of funny, and she’ll dance the house down. She definitely isn’t someone who will death drop though, no splits or anything like that. She has a little bit of a comedic aspect, too.”
The Uncorked Dolls feature a variety of queens within the world of drag.
“We have pageant queens, and queens who will literally dance the house down,” Nevil said. “We have some artsy queens, too. We’ll also have one drag king. Sometimes a queen will live sing, we have some very talented performers come.”
As enjoyable as the show seems to be for Uncorked patrons, the queens have equally as much fun performing and entertaining them.
“The fun in drag is that it allows you to be someone else. You can let loose. The fun is getting to entertain people and making their night,” Nevil said.