Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Richard Dykes still co-owns George’s. But Dykes passed away several years ago. 225 regrets the error.
Pride’s live celebrations have been largely canceled this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But at Baton Rouge’s George’s Place, the owners, staff and patrons are still reflecting on an important milestone in June: 50 years of being a safe place where people from all walks of life can enjoy themselves over a drink and a drag show.
Opened in 1970 by George Hogan, George’s Place is the oldest LGBTQ+ bar in Baton Rouge. It’s provided a cozy atmosphere that has long offered patrons an escape from the judgement of the outside world. And in early June, George’s welcomed patrons again as part of the state’s Phase Two reopening.
Britnee Alexander, Miss Capital City Pride 2019, got her start at George’s Place nine years ago and says it became a home for her—and many other individuals over the decades. Even without the in-person celebrations, Alexander says Pride has a bigger meaning.
“We come together as a community and a family to support each other, to look out for each other, to be there for each other,” Alexander says. “For me, Pride is taking that sense of self and to love everyone and to express your love with the utmost respect.”
In the bar’s beginnings in the early to mid ‘70s, George’s didn’t have a sign or any marker that set it apart from the rest of the block on St. Louis Street. Today, the bar has been completely remodeled with a small stage and murals from local artist Kellie Austin.
Richard Dykes of Montpelier began working as a bartender at George’s in the late ‘70s and quickly worked his way up to manager. Dykes became the bar’s owner in 1988, a year after Hogan died from lung cancer. Richard and his husband, Guy Schmieder, still own the bar. But the bar’s manager, Richard’s niece Chansley Dykes, and assistant manager Luther Sobers help run the day-to-day.
Through the years, customers have stopped by to enjoy a drink, karaoke or a drag show. George’s has made itself a place of community among Baton Rouge’s LGBTQ+ residents. And even in a pandemic, it’s still a respite.
The bar has taken this month as an opportunity to voice its support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well. “While standing in the face of discrimination for half a century, George’s has always had the support of its community and it is time to repay the favor. We value and admire the strength of our brothers and sisters of color and stand with them through these difficult times,” reads a June 11 Instagram post.
Kasey Bordelon, a George’s Place bartender since April 2019, says she and her wife found a home at the bar upon moving to Baton Rouge four years ago.
“George’s has always been a place of community and love,” Bordelon says. “From the first time we came here, everyone was ready to accept us with open arms and ready to get to know us.”