By Joshua Kahn
One of Norfolk’s oldest gay bars, The Garage, was opened by Tony Pritchard in July of
1986 and soon became one of the more popular bars in Norfolk, drawing in more of the
“masculine” gay crowd. Inside, the front was painted a dark green, and a Jeep grill with working headlights hung from a wall near a medium sized bar. In the back was a larger, 20+ft long bar. It had the grill from a ’65 Chevrolet, also with working headlights, hanging above it. The dance floor was lit from beneath with multicolored lights, carpeted areas featured moons and stars that showed up in the black light, and the ceiling and walls were painted black. Hanging from the ceiling were banners from various local organizations.
One of those organizations was the Knight Hawks of Virginia, formed in 1993 by Chuck
Wallerick, the manager of the Detour; Jim Nelson, one of Wallerick’s employees; and Carlos
Roane, an associate member of the Capital Leathermen in Raleigh, NC. The Knight Hawks are
individuals who have a common interest in the leather/levi, bd/sm, and fetish lifestyles. They seek to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the lifestyles both among the members of the organization and within the community through social, charitable, educational endeavors and activities.
The Knight Hawks used The Garage in 1994 as a place to have their meetings and events
to raise money for charities and other organizations. One of the charities they regularly donate to is the Hope House Foundation which founding member Chuck Wallerick was very involved with. They also donated $1000 to Old Dominion University’s Gay Cultural Studies program in December of 2016.
The Knight Hawks brought a specific crowd to the Garage there were bears and
leathermen and military, oh my. However, it was not always safe to go to The Garage as there
could be, as charter member Patrick Harvey called them, “the Pat Robertson people yelling at
patrons entering the bar.” Nevertheless, The Knight Hawks had a home at the Garage from 1994-2013 and became a staple until Tony Pritchard sold the Garage to some employees. According to Mr. Harvey, these new owners “proceeded to run it into the ground,” and The Knight Hawks were forced to leave, taking a lot of the business with them. They ended up at MJ’s Tavern where they continue to meet today. As for The Garage, Tony Pritchard bought it back, but the damage had already been done. As a result, a staple of the gay bar scene in Norfolk was forced to close on March 31, 2013.