New YorkNewsNightlife

Gay couple opens NYC’s second Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar in Harlem

On Saturday, married gay couple Charles Hughes, 39, and Ricky Solomon, 38, officially opened Lambda Lounge in New York City. The bar will be the second Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar in New York City, located in the historically Black Harlem district in Upper Manhattan. 

Until government officials allow bars to welcome guests indoors, they plan to open a deck and backyard space on Saturdays between 6-11pm. 

“We wanted to create a space for our community that you might get in Soho but bring it uptown,” Hughes says. 

The couple, who both work full-time for an insurance company, are the sole proprietors of Lambda Lounge. The idea to open Lamda Lounge came one day as Hughes was sitting at his desk. While looking out his window, he saw an ad for Cîroc—the vodka brand which was famously endorsed by Sean “Diddy” Combs in the 90’s and early 2000’s—and thought to himself: “Why doesn’t the LGBT community have a vodka?”

The couple launched Lambda Vodka in 2016, which is also the same year they were married. The grain-based is distilled six times and bottled by Citrus Distillers in Jacksonville, Florida. The vodka is described as similar to Tito’s, but with citrus notes and smoother texture.

When attempting to sell the vodka to bars and stores across New York City, the community in Harlem was the most receptive. LALA Wine & Liquor on 125th Street and Broadway now carried their vodka. 

They decided that opening Lambda Lounge would help give more exposure to their vodka, and they planned a grand opening on April 10—but then the city shut down everything in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s been rough for us because we’re fronting the cost of everything. We’re the only ones,” says Hughes. “I don’t know if surreal is the word for it; it was a numbness. You invest so much time and money and then it’s on hold indefinitely.”

The current crisis has been particularly challenging for bars that cater to the LGBTQ+ community. Only six blocks north of Lambda Lounge is Alibi Lounge, the only other Black-owned gay bar in town, which was on the brink of closing.

Charles Hughes and Ricky Solomon. Photo taken from Instagram.

The couple also mentioned that the protests and activism around the Black Lives Matter movement also propelled them to go forward with their opening.

When they are allowed to open inside for guests, the 15-seat bar also includes three “VIP” sections filled with sofas, LED-lit tables, photo booths, PlayStations, service buttons, and a full cocktail menu. Each week, they plan to have four nights of promotions, which will include popular DJs in the LGBTQ+ community , nd a Sunday house music night. 

“We need to show an image of Black people and people of color doing really great things,” says Solomon. “We love to inspire others to do the same.”

Lambda Lounge is located at 2256 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (between 132nd and 133rd Street), New York, NY 10027

Read Huges and Solomon’s recent interview with Out Magazine!

Follow Lambda Lounge on Instagram and Facebook.

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