Prizm News / April 23, 2019 / By Keith Simpkins

(Photos by Keith Simpkins)

A rebranded bar becomes an LGBTQ Oasis in the Cleveland east side desert

By Keith Simpkins

In a city where the Cuyahoga River demarcates east from west, so too has Cleveland’s LGBTQ nightlife been divided over the years, from the plethora of hotspots on the west side to the veritable desert of evening entertainment on the east. 

Yet, behold! An oasis! 

- Advertisement -

All Axs has suddenly been marked as a destination for the LGBTQ community on Cleveland’s east side. With a sign behind the bar proclaiming, “Everyone is welcome,” the Willoughby spot has quickly become known as a safe place to be yourself without judgment, to witness amazing events, and to socialize with other, like-minded individuals. And, to think, it all started with a one-night-only idea. 

Owner and manager Billy Welker first had the concept to create an LGBTQ-friendly night, a move about which his friend Bill Hartman had doubts. 

“I advised Billy that a ‘gay night’ would just seem like a money grab,” says Hartman. “The community wouldn’t support it. You either need to be all in or all out.”

Opting instead to make All Axs a more inclusive space the entire week, the sole LGBTQ theme night idea was ditched and the rebranding commenced. Integral to showing the community that they are indeed an LGBTQ destination, the bar began hosting drag shows in February. Comedy shows, live music, and their first ever Drag Brunch soon followed. 

Drag King Gus Tevaire performs
(Photo by Keith Simpkins)

“Welker and the entire staff have given downtown Willoughby a chance to witness the most creative art form in the world,” says Veranda L’Ni, Cleveland’s tallest drag queen who organized, hosted, and performed in that first All Axs show in February. “Given that there isn’t a LGBTQ bar anywhere close by, we couldn’t have asked for a more positive response.”

With Pride Month approaching, All Axs has grand plans to celebrate, including a Pre-Pride show on May 31hosted by the always-entertaining Peach Fuzz and plenty of other events on the horizon. For those well familiar with making the westward trek to find LGBTQ nightlife, this new addition to the Cleveland scene is a most welcome change.  

“Having a gay bar on the east side is a dream come true,” says Brandon Hughes, a frequent visitor to the bar. “All Axs has become not only my favorite place to relax and have a few drinks, but also another home and a safe haven where anyone can be themselves without fear.” 

All Axs is located at 4027 Erie Street in Willoughby and you can visit their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/ALLAXSDTW

Keith Simpkins has lived in the Cleveland area for three years and works at the MidTown Tech Hive. He blogs about his experiences as a gay man in the Cleveland area at GayintheCLE.com or you can email him at gayinthecle@gmail.com.