top of page

From Local to Global: The Trailblazing Impact of the Lesbian Bar Project

by Erica Rose, Co-Creator/Director of The Lesbian Bar Project

Want weekly exclusive brand storytelling content like this direct to your inbox? Subscribe to the Brand Storytelling Newsletter.

In March of 2020, as we all can collectively remember, COVID hit New York City hard and fast. My industry, the entertainment industry, screeched to a violent halt. This was like other industries: theatre, concerts, live events, and particularly restaurants and bars.

During this uncertain, frightening, and unprecedented moment in history, I spent a lot of time walking the hour long walk from my apartment in Sunset Park to my girlfriend’s apartment in Carroll Gardens. During these walks, I would call my friend Elina Street, another queer NY based director. We spent hours processing and chatting and forming an even deeper friendship. As the weeks dredged on and the concept of time slipped away, we realized that the last time we were able to see each other in person was at the Lesbian Bar Ginger’s in Park Slope. This coincided with an article published by NBC OUT stating that, at the time, there were only 16 Lesbian Bars left in the United States.

The pandemic presented the very real, very upsetting possibility of complete Lesbian Bar extinction. Elina and I considered ourselves relatively ingrained in the queer community and we didn’t even realize the national numbers were so bad. These bars are not just bars, they are vital safe spaces that were tremendously formative to our queer identities. We couldn’t let these spaces perish. So, we did what we do best, probably the only thing I know how to do – we conceptualized The Lesbian Bar Project documentary endeavor and began telling the stories of these bars.

We started small, with a 90-second PSA, interactive website, and crowdfunding campaign. With the help of two wonderful producers, Elina and I called every single bar owner in the country and got to know them on a personal level. We teamed up with Executive Producers Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black) and The Katz Company and received monetary brand support from Jägermeister. We launched the project in October of 2020, and to our delight, we raised over $117,000 for the bars. 100% of the proceeds went directly to the bars. Because of this, many were able to keep their lights on, pay their staff, and rebuild from the devastation of the pandemic.

We weren’t done yet. In 2021, we shot a 20-minute documentary, which focused on some of the bars in New York, D.C., and Alabama. We continued our relationship with Jägermeister and launched another crowdfunding campaign for the bars and raised over $150,000. The short film won a Tribeca X Award, two ANA awards, and we had the immense privilege to be invited guests of the Congressional Equity Caucus and screen the film at the Library of Congress with speakers Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Sharice Davids giving opening remarks.

The short film served as a proof-of-concept for the docuseries Elina and I always dreamt of making. In 2022, we partnered with Roku Brand Studio and Jägermeister to create a three-part episodic docuseries. The goal was to tell the stories of the human beings behind the bars and the communities they serve. We did an episode in Houston, Phoenix, and New York.

In Houston, owner Julie Mabry fought alcoholism and the Texas Deep Freeze to keep Pearl Bar alive. Affectionately dubbed “Saint Julie”, Julie does anything for her community and Pearl Bar is her salvation. In Phoenix, Boycott Bar owner Audrey Corley overcame personal tragedy and hate crimes to form a sanctuary for the queer Latinx community. In New York, Lisa Cannistraci never wanted to own a bar. But, for the past 37 years, she’s found herself at the helm of one of the longest running lesbian and queer women spaces in the country, Henrietta Hudson. ‘Hens’ is more than a bar - it’s an institution, and Lisa has subsequently become a legend and trailblazer in the community bearing witness to the monumental shifts and challenges the queer community has faced for the past four decades.

Our series received various honors including a selection to Brand Storytelling: a Sanctioned event of Sundance, a GLAAD Media Award, and an Emmy nomination. Our project has received 1 billion impressions worldwide with features in The New York Times, NBC, ABC News, Bloomberg, The Today Show, CNN, The Cut, PBS, Huffington Post, LA Times, Forbes, Washington Post, Axios, Paper Mag, Billboard, and over 100 other publications. Since we launched the project in 2020, 8 new Lesbian Bars have opened in the United States.

The Lesbian Bar Project has told the story of Lesbian Bars, the owners, and the communities they serve in the United States. And yet, Lesbian Bars are rapidly changing worldwide. We have a new 45-minute special about Germany (Cologne & Berlin specifically) which just wrapped production. Subjects include prominent German queer voices like Boize Bar owner Payman Neziri, Girlstown party organizers Zoe Rasch and Suse Eichinger, politicians Tessa Ganserer & Terry Reintke, comedian Ricarda Hofmann, and musicians Ebow & Wilhelmine.

Now, we need your help so that we can continue telling stories about our community, for our community.

We’re currently raising funds for Lesbian Bar Project Initiatives including:

  • Support for our first international episode

  • In person screenings and discussions around safe spaces hosted at bars across the United States and Germany

  • Promotion of LBP internationally

All donations are tax-deductible.

To make a donation, click HERE.

The Lesbian Bar Project was built from queer friendship, a queer friendship between me and Elina formed in the bars and on those long walks. We have a mutual love of these spaces that helped us become the unabashed, unapologetic, people we are today. This project has given us the gift of life-long friendships all around the world and the ability to amplify the stories of a community so often sidelined, marginalized, and forgotten.

Elina and I have dedicated much of the past four years of our lives to telling stories about our community for our community. We hope, with your support, we can continue to do so.


For more information about The Lesbian Bar Project go to:

To watch our Roku Series go to:

Follow us on Instagram @lesbianbarproject


About Erica Rose

Erica Rose (she/her) is an award-winning Brooklyn based director with a focus on queer and female driven stories. She co-created / directed the Roku Original docu-series The Lesbian Bar Project, which was nominated for an Emmy and won a GLAAD Media Award. Her most recent narrative film LET LIV premiered at Tribeca FIlm Festival in 2023. In addition, her work has screened at Sundance, Aspen Shortsfest, SIFF, Iris Prize and Rooftop Films.

For more information:


Recent Posts
Follow Us
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • YouTube Social  Icon
bottom of page