April 6, 2017 at 10:51 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Sale of Phase 1 ends 45-year run of lesbian bar
Phase 1, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

Phase 1, a lesbian bar that has operated in the Barrack’s Row section of Capitol Hill since 1970, became a part of gay bar history last month when its building, owned by Phase 1 co-founder Allen Carroll, sold for $3.3 million, according city tax records.

Although Phase 1 has been closed since last June, Carroll applied to have its liquor license stored in “safekeeping” at the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, raising speculation – and hope by some of its loyal customers – that he might reopen the iconic club.

One year earlier Carroll announced on the bar’s Facebook page that it was being closed for renovation work and would soon reopen. It did reopen a few months later on a limited schedule of Thursday through Saturday nights only.

At the time it reopened he told the Blade he was uncertain of its future.

“I don’t want to close, but the girls have got to support it,” he said. “I’ve always been there for the women. I don’t fully get it. We’ve been there through good times and bad.”

Some of Phase 1’s regular customers speculated that as LGBT rights advances changed the gay and lesbian social scene many former gay bar customers – men and women – feel comfortable going to other clubs that welcome both gays and straights.

City tax records show that although Phase 1 operated in its building at 525 8th St., S.E. for many years, Carroll’s Ft. Washington, Md., based company, AJC II LLC, bought the building in December 2009 for just over $1.8 million. His sale of the building eight years later yielded a profit of just under $1.5 million, city records show.

A large sign hanging on the front wall this week says the building is up for lease and is well suited for a restaurant.

In recent years, the Phase 1 became known as the longest continuously operating lesbian bar in the country. In 1970, when Carroll and his partner Chris Jensen opened the bar, they were among just a small number of gay bar owners who sought to open an exclusively lesbian bar.

Former Phase 1 manager and bartender Angela Lombardi told the Blade in a 2015 interview, when Carol closed the bar for renovation and didn’t make it clear when or if he would reopen, praised Carol for his many years of commitment to keeping the bar open.

“He’s done more than fucking anyone else, more than any lady, more than anyone for our community and for that he deserves serious accolades,” Lombardi said. “He kept it open through thick and thin. That’s his baby. That’s the bar that started it all for him and Chris,” she said.

“Allen has really fought for 45 years to keep those doors open,” she said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Key to any successful community institution like Phase 1:

    Visit regularly as a customer, and tip generously for good service.

    Thanks so much to everyone for a great run!

    • Sometimes, I have may scoff at your tipping habits obsession, but in a case like this, I do agree. Patronizing , and by that I mean spending money for more than one drink all night long, and tipping accordingly, is what will keep a place alive. Just popping in and not spending will keep closing places.

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