The Oar House

By Kira Kindley

4107 Colley Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia

Our Own Community Press, February 1979, page 8

“The Oar House Bar a bar that served primarily gay patrons was once located at 4107 Colley Avenue, and at some point between it’s founding and today it became, wait for it, a different bar that serves primarily gay patrons. The Oar House and its patrons were targets of police harassment in the 1970s and early 1980s, due to laws in Virginia that prevented bars from serving alcohol to gay patrons. These were in the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, Mixed Beverage Laws and 3.2 Beverage Laws of Virginia, laws 4-37 and 4-98.10. Law 4-37 and its provisions were adopted by the Virginia Assembly in 1956, with 4-98.10 adopted in 1968. 4-37 prohibited establishments with liquor licenses from becoming “a meeting place or rendezvous point for users of narcotics, drunks, homosexuals, pimps, panderers, [etc.]” and threatened the loss of their license if they became a meeting place for the groups previously stated or allowed “noisy, lewd, or disorderly conduct upon licensed premises.” 4-98.10, adopted 12 years after the first set of homophobic laws, read, “any person who has the general reputation as a prostitute, homosexual, panderer, gambler, habitual law violator, person of ill repute, user of or peddler of narcotics or person who drinks to excess of any ‘B-girl’” shall not knowingly be employed by an ABC licensee.”

Kira Kindley giving her presentation during the initial Queer Walking Tour.

“So, not only could gay people not be served in bars, they could not take up jobs in locations that had liquor licenses. Until these Alcoholic Beverage Control law was overturned, bars could lose their liquor licenses if it could be proven that the bar was regularly serving gay patrons or had become a location for gay people to congregate—and a great point here is on how that could be proven. In Our Own I found specific reference to the police harassing two gay men who had exited the Oar House, which culminated in the police making them men admit they were gay. The officers then took their names into the Oar House and told the bartender that those patrons could no longer be served. The police continued to demand patrons of the Oar House out themselves, and turned lists of names in to the bar staff at the Oar House.”

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