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New bar in Allentown offers inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ community

26 opened its doors Friday in the same building as a former sanctuary for the community for 30 years.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Take one step inside 26, and see the decorative walls, and the message is clear.

“We're unapologetically queer, and we're here, and we're going to have a good time,” co-owner Michael Moch.

The LGBTQIA+ community in Allentown felt that was something they lost when Cathode Ray — their sanctuary of 30 years at 26 Allen St. — shut its doors last August, leaving the city of Buffalo with just three bars serving their community.

As a longtime employee and frequent visitor himself, Moch saw what the community was missing. Along with three of his former coworkers, he renovated and reopened the bar under a new name and with a slightly different message.

“We’re just trying to keep that tradition alive — create a safe space for the queer community within Buffalo,” Moch said. “The previous bar really served the predominantly gay male community, and we just wanted to expand that to be more inclusive to the entire community.”

The bar opened its doors Friday and saw over 1,000 guests on opening weekend. It will host local DJs and performers and a variety of events including karaoke, themed dance parties and parking lot festivals.

The owner says drink selection will include local craft beer, elevated cocktails and mocktails. 

But as much as the bar aims to be a safe haven, doing so means understanding potential risks.

“Because bad things happen in safe spaces, doesn't mean you shouldn't have safe spaces,” Moch said.

The bar added robust security measures like off-duty police officers and security guards, alarm systems and concrete patio blockades to ensure that 26 Allen St. remains that place of refuge the community has always known it to be.

“There's just so many places in the world today where people don't feel safe, especially in the LGBTQIA community, and that's something that we feel is probably the most important thing that we can provide.”

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