By Melissa Friederichs.
3472 Holland Road, Norfolk, Virginia.
The “Virginia Beach’s Premier Gay Bar & Nightclub,” the Rainbow Cactus Company, was located at 3472 Holland Rd. Checking out their website you can find a variety of weekly and special events including paint nights, drag racing, male dancers and various musical performers. It is not uncommon to find a variety of people at this establishment. Regarding Hampton Roads gay and lesbian bars, Shannon Bowman writes that, “a blended audience of gay, straight, transgender, women having bachelorette parties, or an office party out seeing a drag show” is common and acceptable1. “More mainstream bars and restaurants have been going out of their way to create an environment that is safe and welcoming to all people, paying particular attention to the LGBT community”1. This description fits the Rainbow Cactus Company completely and as blogger Christian Curley said, “servicemen and women rub elbows with drag queens and surfers at the
Rainbow Cactus Company, an eclectic but cosmopolitan venue unlike any other night club in Virginia Beach”2. So, you may run into a variety of folks enjoying the atmosphere at the Rainbow Cactus Company.
The Rainbow Cactus Company does have some history in its twenty years of operation. Our Own, the local gay and lesbian newspaper reported its new operation in 1997 with the owner Rob Davis having been friends with Tony Prichard, owner of the Garage, a gay bar in Norfolk3. Our Own wrote about a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board agent citing the establishment with a “variety of ABC violations” on June 10 th , 1998. “The offending items are a ‘lewd’ postcard, cock rings and lubricant”4. Our Own reported that the Rainbow Cactus Company was given money to help support their legal fees from local clubs and bars like the Garage. This shows how much the LGBTQ community really came together for each other at that time.
The Rainbow Cactus Company, like other gay and lesbian bars have historically “had to create a community for themselves that was protected and accepting”5. In addition to the bars being a place the LGBTQ community to meet and mingle these spaces have been safe to be openly gay6. There are less of these establishments most likely due to “internet communities and chat rooms, which serve some of the same functions that bars have traditionally served, including connecting people of shared interests and desires, may also have had an impact on gay and lesbian bars”6. Nevertheless, the Rainbow Cactus Company continues to remain an important space for all, but especially the LGBTQ community.
1Rainbow Cactus Company. http://www.therainbowcactus.com/index.php. Accessed 1 Dec 2017.
2Curley, Christopher. “Virginia Beach Night Clubs” Aol, https://www.aol.com/2010/10/21/virginia-beach- night-clubs/. Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
3 Our Own Community Press, August 1998 Page 1 and 16, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries.
4 Our Own Community Press, 1998: Farewell Issue, Page 7, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries.
5 Bowman, Shannon. “Going Straight into the Gayborhood: A Guide to LGBT Friendly Hampton Roads.” AltDaily, http://altdaily.com/going-straight- into-the- gayborhood-a- guide-to- lgbt-friendly-hampton- roads/. Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
6Johnson, Matthew D., Claude J. Summers. “Gay and Lesbian Bars.” GLBTQ, 2005, http://www.glbtqarchive.com/ssh/gay_lesbian_bars_S.pdf. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.