Rendezvous is under new management, and while they aren’t branding it as a gay bar they are putting their most inclusive feet forward.
That’s what the recently painted rainbow on the front door symbolizes — it’s a welcome sign to people of all stripes, not a statement of exclusive intent.
“This isn’t a gay bar just because we have a rainbow door,” said Asher Rohan co-owner of Black Sheep Productions, a new production company that is now managing the Rendezvous. “It’s very all-inclusive. We want to be an all-inclusive space where everyone feels welcome.”
Rohan is gay, but Black Sheep Productions co-owner and Rendezvous co-manager Michael Friend is not, and they don’t want the business to be pigeonholed as only catering to one type of person.
A sign Friend and Rohan are working on prohibits sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia and racism as well as littering, loitering and other undesirable behaviors at the bar they manage. Eventually, they will be the venue’s owners, but until title transfers and liquor licenses are squared away they’re co-managing the bar.
That paperwork wait means they’re keeping the Rendezvous name for now since it’s what appears on licenses, but the pair hinted that a rebrand could be coming at some point. They wouldn’t share what the new name could be.
The bar was previously owned by Deborah Percy and Erik Emert, and Rohan and Friendly said they approached them about purchasing the bar when it was for sale.
‘This is their house’
While the bar isn’t just for one group of people, the new Rendezvous does have close ties to Juneau’s LGBTQ+ community. Rohan said the Juneau drag family pitched in with the bar’s ongoing face-lift. It was also the site of the GLITZ drag show after party.
“This is their house,” Rohan said of the drag community. “They perform here once a month.”
The overt dedication to inclusivity is appreciated.
“It’s important to have a safe place where one can be themselves,” said JoLynn Stevens Shriber, co-chair for Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance. “I’ve met several cruise ship employees that are relieved to have a queer friendly place to hang out while in town. Most of the bars in town are queer friendly but to have one that is advertising as LGBTQ friendly is incredible.”
Friend and Rohan’s vision for what can happen at the bar goes beyond monthly drag shows.
Both Rohan and Friend have been longtime workers in the service industry at bars and restaurants, and they want Rendezvous to be a venue for burlesque nights, spoken word events, musical performances and to watch big sporting games.
A lifelong dream
They want their space to be good for downtown Juneau, too.
While Friend and Rohan have each only been permanent Juneau residents for about a year, they have been visiting the city for the past 15 years and are fond of the community. Friend and Rohan actually met in the capital city while working for a boutique cruise company.
That’s part of the reason they opted to realize Friend’s lifelong dream of having a bar to call his own in Juneau and why they hope Rendezvous will be part of a collaborative network of business owners on Franklin Street. They’re already off to a start on that effort. They’re hosting an Entrepreneur Meet-Up Thursday.
Getting the bar to the point that it meets or exceeds their goals means putting in a lot of work into the structure built in 1914, according to City and Borough of Juneau’s assessor database.
Late Wednesday morning, that meant new interior and exterior paint and moving stacks of chairs.
Ultimately, Rohan and Friend are hoping for a blend of new and old — that applies to lighting, painting, decorations and staff.
“It’s been a bit of a beast,” Rohan said.
While work is ongoing, Friend said they’ll do their best to have the bar open by the early afternoon, and the hope is that by July 1, the bar will be opening daily at noon.
An eclectic variety of beverages are meant to pair with the all-comers welcome vibe and disparate events booking.
That includes offering a rotating selection of cocktails on some of the bar’s 18 taps. Cocktails made using Amalga Distillery gin are expected to be a staple in the rotation.
“We’re really excited about teaming up with them,” Friend said.
Non-alcoholic options are also part of the plan.
“It doesn’t need to be just a place you come to drink,” Friend said. “We want to gain consistency. We also want people to pop their head in the Rendezvous to see what’s happening. It makes it fun for us.”
And that’s one of the core pillars of what they want the business to be.
“I can’t stress this enough — clean, safe, fun,” Rohan said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.