Gregs: A Bar and Community Hub

Located at 231 E. 16th Street, Gregs is one of the most popular gay bars in Indianapolis and is a frequent stage for drag performances. Indianapolis has had roughly fifty gay bars in the last few decades, according to new information gathered by Indiana Landmarks. It is difficult to identify gay bars because many of them have kept very low profiles, sometimes with shuttered windows and limited publicity, because of anti-LGBT+ policies and public opinion. Some remain concealed to this day, despite changing attitudes. While Gregs does not draw attention to itself as a public space, it has a very public profile and presence in the city today.

The Beginning of Gregs

Gregs first opened on July 1, 1980, as the Wawasee Tavern. In 1992, Phil Denton purchased the bar and changed the name to Our Place. Denton transformed the space, which hosted several Leather and Bear Clubs, subcultures within the LGBT+ community known for their hyper-masculine image. The bar also hosted the T.G.I.F. Bowling Classic, the Circle City/Indy Cup Volleyball Tournament, the Halloween Bag Ladies bus tour and coronation, and other LGBT+ events.  

Operating for more than 34 years, the Indianapolis Bag Ladies are a fundraising group that sponsors drag performances to fundraise for AIDS organizations in the city. Performances by the Bag Ladies at Gregs have also brought awareness and support to Indianapolis LGBT+ communities while at the same time existing as a safe space for artistic self-expression.

Greg Powers

In June 2002, Phil Denton’s close friend Greg Powers died. An integral part of the Indianapolis LGBT+ community, Powers was involved with Our Place from the very beginning. Though Powers did not seek the spotlight, Our Place was renamed Gregs to remember his community contributions. Following Powers’ example, Gregs has continued to give back to the community, contributing to the annual AIDS Walk, Indy Pride, the Damien Center, Justice Inc., and Indiana Youth Group, among others.

Images

Gregs Today

Gregs Today

A view of Gregs bar along east 16th Street in Indianapolis today. Gregs, formerly Our Place, has occupied this historic commercial building since 1992. Gregs is very active online, advertising various events from drag shows to Charity Dart Tournaments. Gregs is in the Old Northside Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places district since 1978. Image courtesy of Annette Scherber. | Source: Annette Scherber | Creator: Annette Scherber View File Details Page

Gregs Place Today

Gregs Place Today

The front entrance of Gregs today. Image courtesy by Kurt Lee Nettleton '© 2015. | Source: Kurt Lee Nettleton | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

Former Labyrus Bar

Former Labyrus Bar

While Gregs served mostly a male clientele, other spaces in Indianapolis catered to women. What is now The Lockerbie Pub, was previously Labyrus, a lesbian bar. Founded in 1978, Labyrus was known for booking numerous female musicians, with fifty concerts a year. The bar™s founder, Mary Byrne, is currently the Executive Director of the Indiana Youth Group, which provides “safe places and confidential environments” for LGBT+ youth to become empowered through “programs, support services, social and leadership opportunities, and community service.” The Tudor Revival commercial building, built ca. 1925, boasts basket weave brick patterns in the gables and stained glass in the windows. The pub is situated in the Historic Lockerbie Square District, the oldest historic neighborhood in the city, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Image courtesy Kurt Lee Nettleton '© 2015. | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

Gay Businesses

Gay Businesses

Local LGBT+ Indianapolis publications such as The New Works contained directories of gay businesses. One of the largest categories of these businesses was “Bars.” In this 1991 listing, what would become Gregs is still known as Our Place.Image courtesy of The News Works News, Chris Gonzales Library and Archives, IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives | Source: The New Works News, Chris Gonzales Library and Archives, IUPUI University Special Collections and Archives | Creator: The Works View File Details Page

Welcome to Indy

Welcome to Indy

Publications like The Works had maps of LGBT+ public spaces for the visiting tourist including numerous bars, the Talbot General Store, and the Indy Club Baths. During this time period it appears that most gay businesses were relatively close, with a majority located on the Old Northside and Talbott Street neighborhood.Image from The Works, Courtesy of Chris Gonzalez Library & Archives, Kinsey Institute, and IUPUI University Library. October, 1981, page 23. | Source: The Works, October 1981, Chris Gonzales Library and Archives, IUPUI University Library Special Collections and Archives.  | Creator: Berg Investment Corp,, The Works  View File Details Page

Oldest Gay Bar

Oldest Gay Bar

According to some, the Varsity Lounge, located at 1517 North Pennsylvania Street, is Indianapolis™ oldest gay bars. The bar was originally named Zen Dells™ Tavern in the 1938 City Directory, but by 1941 was renamed the Varsity Bar. The bar is in the Old Northside Historic District as well, but it was not originally deemed historic due to the recent date of its construction. The front facade was altered at some point with the windows covered up. By early 2016, the bar was closed and the building was for sale. Image courtesy of Kurt Lee Nettleton. | Source: Kurt Lee Nettleton | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Adrienne Nirde, “Gregs: A Bar and Community Hub,” Discover Indiana, accessed July 28, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/115.
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