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    A Thriving Gayborhood in the Heart of Oakland

    Polls and surveys consistently show that Oakland, California, has one of the highest concentrations of LGBTQ people in the nation. It also has one of the largest populations of lesbian-headed households, and is among the most integrated cities in the U.S. The White Horse Bar, which has been serving the LGBTQ community since 1933, is the oldest operating gay bar in the country. Back in the day, former places like Mary’s First and Last Chance—a popular lesbian bar not far from The White Horse—legally fought and won rights for the LGBTQ community.   

    Joe Hawkins and Jeffrey Myers, Co-Founders of the Oakland LGBTQ Center
    Photos courtesy of the Lakeshore LGBTQ Cultural District

    Oakland’s LGBTQ history is therefore long and noteworthy, but only recently did it lead to an officially recognized district. As Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan wrote in the San Francisco Bay Times: “On November 7, 2023, Mayor Sheng Thao, several elected officials, Oakland LGBTQ leaders, and Jeopardy! champ Amy Schneider gathered to celebrate the opening of The Lakeshore LGBTQ Cultural District. The organizing of community leaders and a resolution I wrote along with Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Councilmembers Fife and Kalb came together to make this district a reality.”

    Oakland LGBTQ Center

    The mission of the new district, which not only includes Lakeshore Avenue but also much of Grand Avenue, is:

    • to provide Oakland’s LGBTQ individuals, families, business owners, allies, and the general community with a historically identifiable LGBTQ+ neighborhood;
    • to create a safe, welcoming, vibrant, and all-inclusive community;
    • to foster a community where every Oakland resident and visitor can feel safe to exist free and proud;
    • to promote local businesses and create spaces for them to thrive;
    • and to uplift and preserve the legacy of Oakland’s rich LGBTQ history, including the struggle for justice and equity.

    The Chair of the district’s Committee is Jeffrey Myers, who with Joe Hawkins co-founded the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center in 2017. The center is at the heart of the new district. Including the center, Myers told the Bay Times that the following businesses within the district are LGBTQ owned and operated:

    Alkali Rye – Oakland’s Beverage Shop
    3256 Grand Avenue

    Arizmendi Bakery
    3265 Lakeshore Avenue

    Bay-Made (gift shop)
    3295 Lakeshore Avenue

    Galleria Scola (picture framing & art restoration services)
    3646 Grand Avenue

    Kinetic Chiropractic
    3645 Grand Avenue, #305

    Michael’s Chocolates
    3352 Grand Avenue

    Modigliani Café
    3208–3210 Grand Avenue

    Oakland LGBTQ Community Center
    3207 Lakeshore Avenue

    Queer Arts Center
    3411 Lakeshore Avenue

    The Sanctuary (boutique)
    3344 Grand Avenue

    Shakewell (restaurant with a prominent LGBTQ past since it was co-founded by acclaimed out and proud Chef Jennifer Biesty)
    3407 Lakeshore Avenue

    Slick & Dapper on Grand (barber shop)
    3619 Grand Avenue

    United Grooming (barber shop)
    3351 Grand Avenue

    VT Nails Spa
    3423 Lakeshore Avenue

    We encourage you to support these and the many other small businesses in and around the district. As for the Castro, The Lakeshore LGBTQ Cultural District is not just a tourist destination or a shopping district, but a thriving community. Investments in our communities make such a big difference in terms of safety, employment, quality of life, and more. By helping bring individuals together, the district will also help to identify both problems and opportunities for the local LGBTQ community and those who proudly reside in the area.

    It has been a grey, rainy winter, so for those of you reading this from San Francisco or the North or South Bay, consider heading to the sunnier side of the Bay Area—to Oakland. It is forever an underdog, and yet it has some of the most magical and rewarding destinations, including The Lakeshore LGBTQ Cultural District.

    Oakland’s Lakeshore LGBTQ Cultural District
    Published on March 7, 2024