Girl Bar Owners Receive "Women of the Year" Award from CSW
Sandy Sachs and Dr. Robin Gans didn't win an Academy Award this year. But you won't hear them complaining. The co-founders of Girl Bar and co-producers of Dinah Shore weekend will will have plenty of awards to put in their trophy case. Partners in both business and life, Sachs and Gans were recently honored together by The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center with it's prestigious Board of Directors' Award at The Center's annual Women's night. This award was given in recognition of their 15 years of service to the LBGT community.
At Dinah Shore Weekend this past March, Palm Springs Mayor Rob Oden also presented the pair with an official city proclamation to commemorate the contributions the event has made in bringing strong tourist revenue into the city, along with promoting global recognition to the desert community as an enticing gay tourist Mecca.
This month, Christopher Street West honors Sachs and Gans with its "Women of the Year" award, which is the first time this honor has been given in tandem to a partnered couple. In celebration, Sachs and Gans will be riding in this year's Los Angeles Gay Pride parade on June 12.
"It's certainly an honor and thrill to be recognized," said Sachs. "Awards like these mean a lot to Robin and myself because they are given to us by our peers, people who have supported us over the years."
"We've always strived to create a fun, classy environment where our patrons feel safe, comfortable and empowered," adds Gans. "It's important for us to play a part in helping the lesbian community be more visible."
But life wasn't always a party for these impresarios. In the early 90s, during Girl Bar's fledgling years, Sachs and Gans ran into their share of hurdles. Landlords often made things difficult, with hefty bar guarantees, along with an overall lack of support. "In the beginning, it was sink or swim and we had to do everything.
Gans adds that competitors were quick to arrive on the scene. "Once the club start to take off, we had other girl promoters try to go head-to-head with us on the same night," she explains. "But they weren't managed well and didn't last very long."
"Experiencing all those hardships early on and really having to rely on ourselves has made us better, smarter and more agile promoters," said Sachs. "One of the things that we always try to do is listen to what our customer have to say. We always keep those lines of communication open, because if you don't, you lose touch."
Late last year, Sachs and Gans made a bold move launching a once-a-month Saturday night version of Girl Bar in Las Vegas. Although Vegas reigns as a vacation mecca among the straight crowd, it was still an untapped market for lesbians and gay men, offering very little in terms queer nightlife options, especially along Las Vegas Boulevard. But with the opening of Krave Nightclub, the Strip's first venue to cater to the queer crowd, the duo saw an opportunity, albeit a risky one.
"This was the first time we'd ever physically taken Girl Bar outside southern California," said Gans. "But our casino nights at both Girl Bar and Dinah Shore Weekend have always been very popular, so we knew that our customers would be receptive to the idea of doing something in Vegas... we just didn't know to what extent."
The gamble seems to have paid off, and now the couple host Girl Bar Las Vegas on a weekly basis. With Girl Bar Los Angeles on Fridays and the Vegas edition on Saturdays, that means literally packing up and taking the show on the road every weekend. "We've been drinking a whole lot of Red Bull," quips Sachs.
Looking ahead, Sachs and Gans are now considering expanding Girl Bar into even more markets. "We are seriously taking a look at Phoenix," said Sachs. "At this point we just need to find the right venue."
For anything else beyond that, the couple is definitely taking a "wait and see" approach. But for certain, both Sachs and Gans want Girl Bar to be around for a long time. Much to Gans' chagrin, Sachs emphasizes this point musically: "We've only just begun!"