NORTHSIDE - The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Greater Cincinnati closed its doors Nov. 9, becoming a virtual space by going completely online .
Board members announced the decision to close the facility in an e-newsletter dated Oct. 28, stating:
“The Board takes a bold step for the future of our organization by becoming a 'virtual' online Center, engaging in grant making to local GLBTQ groups and shuttering its physical location in Northside.”
Vice President John Maddux initially agreed to be interviewed for this article but later declined. Board members were told not to speak on behalf of the board without authorization from President Rusty Lockett, he said. Lockett was unavailable for an interview.
“The main reason we are closing is because of a significant drop in people coming to the center,” Maddux said in a Facebook message before declining an interview. “Persons in the GLBT community have not been using the center for quite some time."
According to its website, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Greater Cincinnati, known widely as The Center, was founded as a nonprofit on Sept. 17, 1993.
- The Center opened its first facility Dec. 17, 1993 in Longworth Hall on West Pete Rose Way
- In 1996, it moved to 230 East Ninth Street
- The Center moved to its final location, 4119 Hamilton Avenue, in 1998
Until its closure, the role of The Center was “to serve as an information resource, a safe and free meeting space, and one source of educational, cultural and recreational programs for a diverse community,” according to its website.
According to the e-newsletter, as a resource existing only online, the Center’s purpose is to raise money for and distribute it to qualifying GLBTQ and allied groups “to fund worthy projects that advance quality, visibility and education,” and to maintain a website with resource information.
A change in relevance
Some community members, like Northside resident Brian Moeller, think The Center’s decrease in visitors may be due to the openness of the area.
“The nature of the neighborhood has always been very inclusive,” Moeller said. With increased social media interaction, the role of The Center has changed, he added. And, while the support system of a physical center may once have played a vital role for the GLBTQ community, Northside has itself become that support system.
Erin Walton, bar manager at Chameleon echoed Moeller’s sentiments.
“The culture has changed there. I don’t think there’s a great need for it (The Center),” she said, adding the facility might better be suited to a downtown location.
Northside Tavern bartender Melanie Quallen said she recognized the facility as a resource center but did not know much else about it. Still, Quallen viewed it as part of the identity of the neighborhood.
“It kind of makes me sad. I hope they do well. But it kind of makes sense. The anonymity of the Internet might be the way to go,” she said.
While some living and working in Northside do not see the need for the brick and mortar Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Equality Cincinnati board member Brian Tiffany saw The Center as a benefit to gay and lesbian individuals.
“The Internet has done a lot to bring like-minded individuals together, but I still think the facility … is a critical component of feeling like you’re not alone,” he said.
Local demographer Gary Wright, president of Wright Ventures, said, "there are no good numbers" for the gay and lesbian population of Cincinnati. He estimates they make up five to six percent of the city's population.
3.6 percent of adults in Ohio identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (Source: Gallup 2013)
According to The Center’s website, board members will continue to answer email and voice mail. They will use the website to:
- List GLBTQ resources
- Posting Pride Night information
- Provide access to the application process and guidelines for funding from The Center
- Gather input to determine a public location for the annual meeting
- Enlist volunteers
- Develop new leadership