We’re not imagining it — in the queer community, the bar and club scene is often a man’s world.
“It’s always difficult to find nice activities for girls, especially for a range of different interests,” says Chloé Lenaerts, program coordinator at Het Roze Huis (“the pink house” in Flemish), Antwerp’s gay community centre, which has an all-female executive board.
Difficult, but far from impossible. Lenaerts says the twice-monthly “Café de Love” parties at established gay bar Red & Blue are the place to go for women who enjoy a young crowd and a pumping, clubby atmosphere. Women take over the club for the second Sunday evening of every month, and in August, with Antwerp Pride and the World Outgames in full swing, there are two Sundays. Café de Love is organizing a “women’s lounge” on Aug 4 at a location yet to be announced, as well as the regular monthly Sunday evening dance on Aug 11, closing night. The organizers promise “the most fabulous party for gay women and open-minded friends” at Red & Blue, sure to provide some great memories for the flight home.
The city’s only “pure” lesbian bar is Atthis, a cozy little spot with a pool table, inexpensive drinks, a library and an inviting backyard patio. “It’s more of a blue-collar community bar for older women. It’s a different atmosphere (compared to Café de Love), but it’s also nice. ”It’s an Antwerp institution, founded 35 years ago. Atthis is run by an all-volunteer staff of women 35 and over, and most of the bar’s clients are in the same age range. The bar is closed on Saturdays; Fridays are the big nights, alternating between dances, movie nights and billiard nights. Unlike Café de Love, Atthis is not on many tourist itineraries. An unfamiliar face or someone speaking a language other than Dutch will turn some heads, although Antwerpenaars pride themselves on being multilingual. Expect to be able to make friends in English, French or a surprising number of other languages — that is, if you can make yourself heard over the music.
“The first Friday of the month [a dance night from 5–10pm], we always have a lot of women,” says Atthis DJ Mieke, who has been spinning on Fridays for 17 years. “At every other place, you have men and women, but here is only for women.” There is talk of putting more dances on the schedule for July and August, although the not-yet-updated online calendar is the only definitive reference.
When visiting Antwerp, there’s no need to limit yourself to two bars. “What I like most about Antwerp is the different cultures you can find and also a huge gay community,” Lenaerts says. “During Antwerp Pride, we want to show that diversity.”
Everyone is welcome at Café den Draak, operated by Het Roze Huis. Their co-ed '80s and '90s parties are a hit. “You can find everyone there,” Lenaerts says. “Black, white, old, young, big, small, male, female and everyone in between.”
“The gay and lesbian and transgender atmosphere in Antwerp is very nice. For Antwerp Pride, there will be rainbows everywhere in town,” she says with a grin. “You should also come because we have good fries and nice chocolate.”