Owner takes pride in Southern Indiana’s only gay bar

Pride Bar +  Lounge, New Albany, Ind.
Pride Bar + Lounge, New Albany, Ind.

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) — Matt McMahan has owned a few restaurants and bars, but his latest New Albany venture is a real source of “pride.”

The newly renovated Pride Bar + Lounge, 504 State St., is the only LGBT-friendly bar he knows of in southern Indiana. When it opens Friday, McMahan says, it will fill a gap left when the bar’s previous owner closed early last month.

“There is nothing else like it” in New Albany, McMahan told the Courier Journal. “No one had branched out to do anything like this,” before the Warehouse Bar, the business’ previous name.

The area’s “pretty decent-sized (LGBT) community” frequented that bar, said Larry Summers, vice president of LGBT rights group Indiana Equality Action. “The place was packed every weekend.”

So when the owner stopped paying and the business reverted back to McMahan, who had previously owned it, he decided to keep it LGBT-friendly. He’s revamped the interior with fresh paint, a lounge and dance floor. And he’s re-branded, adding rainbow-color to the bar’s logo and changing its name, appropriately, to “Pride.”

While the bar is open to everyone, “We want it to be known that we are LGBT-friendly,” said McMahan, who’s straight, with a wife and kids. “We aren’t afraid to show it.”

Courtney Craig Hardin, also known as Felicia D. Knight, a 25-year veteran female impersonator who’s visited many LGBT-friendly bars in Louisville, plans to trek from Kentucky to go to Pride.

“Feeling relaxed at a bar is what we all want,” Hardin said. “I mean, when (you’re) gay, anywhere where you can be yourself and just chill while having a drink is amazing.”

Indiana is currently defending its gay marriage ban before a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. And opening a gay bar in a small-town like New Albany is still very much a “progressive move,” said Pride’s manager, Nataleigh Kabler.

Kabler commutes from Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood, where she said there are plenty of LGBT bars. “But there are none here,” she said. “New Albany needs this push.”

While there have been a few negative comments on Pride’s Facebook page, she said the local reception’s been mostly positive and “a lot of people seem pretty excited.”

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