Charles Hughs and Richard Soloman, a married couple from New York City decided to open a nightlife safe space in Harlem, Lambda Lounge, making this the second Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar in Manhattan.
Speaking with Out Magazine, Richard and Charles talked about the incident that got them into business in the first place: “A little while ago we were out at a location here in Harlem. We were out with a couple of friends and this was a straight establishment. We were dancing and drinking and all of a sudden the DJ stopped the entire party by stopping the music.
“All of a sudden you hear him screaming in the microphone ‘men don’t dance with men’. It kind of shocked everybody because that’s not something that you normally hear when you are out trying to have a good time.”
Richard continues, “Most of us were part of the LGBTQ+ community, but we did have some straight friends with us that were thrown back by this. So for me, that was a large part of wanting to make this lounge. We wanted to be able to have a safe space for people of the LGBTQ+ community and especially people of colour. Unfortunately, the days of us having spaces where we could go and cut loose are over; they shut them all down. We’re trying to bring that back.”
Charles and Richard wanted to create a safe space and an upscale experience for their customers. From luxurious black leather couches to PlayStations, to call server buttons–Lambda Lounge is a wonderful space with entertainment for everyone.
Besides creating an LGBTQ+ lounge, Charles and Richard decided to make a vodka brand to accompany it. , Charles said: “One day I saw an advertisement for Ciroc while I was at work and I thought to myself, well why doesn’t the LGBTQ+ community have a spirit that’s created by us and targets us directly. So I started doing a little research online. I found a distillery in Florida that would be able to create the product for us, and they were humble enough to walk us through the entire process given that we didn’t have any previous experience with spirits.
“That took us about a year. Initially, the name of the brand was going to be Rainbow Vodka. That was a little cliche. So we did a little research on the community and found the significance with the Lamdba symbol in the community. So we thought that would be a really good name for the product to give a little nostalgia.”
The vodka also gave Charles and Richard the inspiration to open Lambda Lounge in Harlem, Charles continues:
“A lot of stores weren’t initially receptive due to it being a new spirit brand, and it didn’t have a big name behind it. We didn’t get a lot of traction there. We were able to get into a few stories in Harlem and we did find a lot of opportunities with a lot of the LGBTQ+ organizations here in New York. We were able to constantly to private events with them. So, not being able to move into a lot of liquor stores and bars, gave us the idea of well, why not have our own bar and sell our spirit to our clientele in that bar.”
If you ever find yourself in NYC, COVID restrictions depending, Lambda Lounge can be found on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem, New York, New York.
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