The Y Bar and Grill officially opened its doors on Aug. 5. Located at 4262 Lakeside Rd. on the outskirts of the town of Geneseo, it is Livingston County’s first LGBTQ-friendly bar. Until a few months ago, the Y Bar was a meat and seafood restaurant known as the SeaCow Grill, owned by Keith Provo. Over the summer, Provo decided to reopen the restaurant as the Y Bar.
“I was tired of the food business and I wanted to get into the bar business,” Provo said. “I had a bar in Florida that was similar to this, which was gay friendly. I know [the business] very well and decided to give it a shot here—there was nothing in Livingston County like it.”
Associate professor of English and co-chair of Geneseo’s LGBTQ Working Group Alice Rutkowski described the new bar as a necessary social outlet for LGBTQ students.
“The SA group ‘Pride’ is an extraordinary organization, but for the life of it, it’s always had to be everything for all queer students,” she said. “It’s had to be both a support group—folks might be wondering how to come out if they weren’t out in high school—it does advocacy work, but then it’s also been forced to be the social group. The idea that there’s something that Pride doesn’t have to be responsible for—that people of all identities might want to go to find someone to date—is so fantastic.”
According to bartender Tom Moag, due to their relative proximity to Geneseo, the bar has professed interest in being an accessible nightlife option for students who are 21 and older.
“Thursdays are college ID nights, so [students] get a dollar off all their drinks, which we found out would be the cheapest place to get a drink in town for the college kids,” Moag said.
Besides the specific appeal to students, Y Bar has a number of other events.
“We have our Drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights, which are at around 10:30-11 [p.m.] and 12:30 [a.m.],” Moag said. “We also do special events on one Sunday a month. Our first one will be Sept. 18th and it’s going to be a Hawaiian Luau, from 3-7 [p.m].”
Beyond those events, the establishment is looking toward other possible promotions and community outreach. “We’re working on a karaoke and trivia night too,” Provo said.
Moag added: “We have other things planned, it’s just working them into the schedule.”
With only two weekends in the term so far, it’s unclear whether the bar is popular among students. Sophomore Claire Sigal was receptive toward the opening.
“What I think is really cool is that it’s very inclusive,” she said. “It’s not just for one group of people, it’s for everyone. What I don’t like as much is that there’s only one night for [students under 21] and it’s on a Sunday.”
According to Provo and Moag, there has been at least some student traffic, with students coming on Aug. 29 and a few drag queens visiting from the campus as well.
Rutkowski expressed the importance of LGBTQ bars as safe places for social interaction. “There are basically no social opportunities for queer students at Geneseo,” she said. “Certainly they’re welcome at other places, but if they want to meet a romantic partner there’s no way to know. So the idea that you could go to a place that is a safe space … [with] folks who might be interested in you is so exciting for our students.”