MOBILE, Ala. (WIAT) — When patrons walked through the doors of Herz, the first thing the bar’s staff wanted them to know was that they were welcome.
“You’re automatically family once you come in,” Bar manager Antonio Brito said.
According to The Lesbian Bar Project, Herz was Alabama’s only lesbian bar and one of two in the Panhandle, locals and visitors to Mobile alike found a community on the dance floor and at the countertops in the building located off of Government Boulevard.
However, Herz owners Sheila and Rachel Smallman announced on April 4 that the bar was officially closed after nearly four years of business.
“Sheila and I would like to thank you all for the years of love, support, and the many memories that we made,” Rachel wrote on the bar’s Facebook page. “We wish you all the love and blessings due to each of you! We look forward to seeing you in the future!!”
Rachel told CBS 42 that the couple was happily overwhelmed by “well wishes from all over the world” on social media posts announcing the bar’s closure. She also cited the Smallman’s decision to pursue different business ventures as to why the bar ultimately was closed.
The bar was featured on the Roku docuseries “The Lesbian Bar Project,” a campaign to “celebrate, support, and preserve the remaining lesbian bars in the U.S.” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As a matter of fact, Lea DeLaria was one of the people that surprised me when she reached out,” Smallman said. ”She wanted to know if we sold our brand or if we just sold the building and I told her it was just the building.”
Rachel added that the couple is still interested in hosting pop-up venues for Herz in Mobile during the summertime.
Kimberly McKeand, a frequent patron of Herz, says she and her friends will miss “one of the best karaoke spots in town.”
“It’s a really big loss for the Mobile community and the Gulf Coast. I mean, people from Florida and Mississippi were coming to Herz,” McKeand said. “We were all devastated by its closing, I mean, many of us cried over it because it was just a safe place for us, a very comfortable place.”
Brito, who often switched into an alter ego of “Beyoncé” when behind the bar counter, feels grateful to have met and served so many in a place that he was proud to call his home bar.
“I’ve had plenty of requests to be a part of people’s, especially lesbians, weddings. I have seen so many people find true love at Herz,” Brito said. “I’ve seen so many people find themselves at Herz, come out because of Herz. That was the most beautiful bar I’ve ever worked at.”
“[Herz] is really going to be missed,” McKeand said. “We already miss it.”