Listed under bars & discos in the advertisements of Our Own, The Ghent Society was a gay bar and club located at 4402 Colley Avenue. First appearing in this gay newspaper in September of 1978, this exclusive club was advertised to LGBT folks with the slogan “make a statement about yourself.” It appears as though this members-only club was open to those of an affluent reputation.
To enter the club you had to be either a member of the club yourself or be the specific guest of a member. This club was not open to all. I found this to be particularly interesting, that even within the gay community- a group that had been excluded by the majority of society- there was still a sense of exclusivity in the access to gay-friendly spaces. However, I could not find information as to why it was not open to all. Interestingly enough, this location is now home to PJ’s 19th Hole, another members-only nightclub that opened sometime in 2009.
A clear closing date for the Ghent Society appeared to be unavailable, but the club’s most prominent year was 1982-1983 (National Park Service). I believe it closed shortly thereafter. Advertisements for The Ghent Society through Our Own Community Press also ceased in October 1982.
During this time the fight for gay rights in this nation was becoming stronger, but it was still a young fight. In 1979 the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights happened. This march included over 100,000 individuals marching for the rights of members of the LGBTQ community (CNN). The in 1982 national news was made when the first state, Wisconsin, outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation (CNN). Although, this fight was nationwide. Virginia itself had ‘homosexual activity’ listed as illegal until 2003.
Affirming gay spaces, like The Ghent Society, were important to queer folks everywhere. Especially queer folks living in southern states like Virginia where their very sexualities were demonized by the state itself.