It’s been two months since The Order, Waterloo’s first LGBTQ+ bar, opened its doors and attendence seems to have declined dramatically since its opening weekend.
The bar caters to a demographic of the population that has been ignored and deprived for far too long in this town. I mean, it’s 2015 for goodness’ sakes. I can keep ranting but that’s a conversation for another day.
The Order itself is a very simple yet modern-looking kind of bar. I went to the bar the Saturday of its opening weekend, and then again last Friday to get an unfiltered experience after some of the nuances of being the new kid on the block in uptown’s nightlife scene had worn off.
To be honest, my feelings about the bar completely changed after I went for a second time. When I went on opening weekend, my friends and I arrived around 11:30 p.m. and waited about 50 minutes in line because the bar was at full capacity.
According to Rami Said, co-owner of The Order, the bar has a capacity of 100 people, which seemed small at the time until I went back last Friday. More on this later.
I honestly had a great time opening weekend. Cover is an affordable five dollars and I can easily say that The Order has the best music of any club or bar in Waterloo. They played retro, Top 40, alternative, house, and, of course, plenty of Beyoncé — can never go wrong with more Queen Bey. I actually found drinks to be a bit pricey for a new bar, but nevertheless my friends and I drank and danced the night away.
As a side note though, it seemed like most of the patrons at The Order were very familiar with one another. As it was the first time in my life going to an LGBTQ+ bar, I was a bit shocked to see a group of friends all making out with one another. Friends engaging in alternating makeout sessions seems like it could lead to some complicated and awkward situations down the road. Just an observation, not a generalization. It personally made it difficult to approach people I was interested in because it was unclear who was taken and who was single.
Moving on: one nice touch, staying with the bar’s theme of inclusivity, was the gender-neutral bathroom. I actually didn’t even notice that I had walked into a gender-neutral bathroom until I was washing my hands beside a girl! At first I was shocked — she noticed — but then I realized what was happening and where I was. For those who are wondering, there are no urinals, so don’t worry you will not see any parts you don’t want to. The whole space is completely positive, safe, and not to mention clean.
For those worried about the type of crowd that attends the bar, don’t worry because it varies from night to night. On Friday and Saturday nights, the crowd is mostly composed of university students and those in their late 20s. Although there are some older folks who sit on the outside of the dance floor staring, which could make you uncomfortable especially if they approach you, the numbers are minimal.
Said recognizes that the LGBTQ+ community is diverse both in taste and age. He said The Order would look to implement alternative programming from Wednesday to Saturday to target and satisfy the diverse demands of the community. He said they’ll look to have cabaret nights to emphasize that The Order is not all about nightlife, but is a safe space for the entire community to use.
Back to the issue of lineups. As I mentioned before, I had to wait 50 minutes before getting in on opening weekend, which made me doubt whether or not The Order can actually satisfy the demands and needs of the community. These doubts quickly dissipated and turned into concern about whether the bar can actually survive financially after I attended for a second time last Friday night. When I asked Said, prior to attending a second time, about the issue of lineups, he said outside of opening weekend the wait times had stabilized to about 20-30 minutes. We didn’t need to wait to get in that Friday night.
There is no other way to say it, the bar was a ghost town. My friend and I were the only ones on the dance floor for most of the night, but the music was on point. We waited until midnight before going to Beta instead, to see if more people would turn up, but numbers began to dwindle even further.
There could be a couple of factors for the lack of people: “Drag Me to the Bomber” was on campus that night, girls don’t pay cover at Beta on Fridays, and it was fucking cold.
When I spoke to Said over the phone, he said he was positive and confident about the future success of The Order.
For the sake of a community who has been underserviced in Waterloo’s nightlife scene for far too long, I really do hope this was just an off night and is not a foreshadow of Friday nights to come.