LGBTQ bars are far more than just bars. For generations, they’ve served as safe spaces in which the queer community can thrive and fully express its culture and identity. However, over the last few decades these institutions have been closing at alarming rates across the United States — a trend exacerbated by lockdowns. Recent studies have shown that LGBTQ bar listings have declined by 15.2% between 2019 and Spring 2021. Gentrification and lack of succession planning are the main cause of these closures, and there are few resources available to help queer business owners keep their doors open.
As a long-standing ally of the LGBTQ community, we’ve established a relationship with the LGBTQ community that goes back more than 40 years. We’ve understood the importance of safe spaces for queer Americans—as places to connect, organize, and yes, grab a cocktail. So in 2022, we set out to do something ambitious to counter this disheartening trend. Something meaningful. Something next-level. Something other brands don’t have the energy or desire to do. We didn’t just want to stand out, we wanted to stand up—for an initiative that is embedded into the DNA of the best, queer-friendliest vodka brand in America.
We knew a flash-in-the-pan advertising tactic wouldn’t cut it. Not with this crowd. Not this year. While other brands were simply rainbow-ing their social badges and logos and moving on to the next holiday on the calendar…
…we got busy building.
In 2022, we introduced “Out & Open”—an evergreen platform designed specifically to raise awareness of (and funds for) queer spaces across the country—bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places where rainbows are a rite of passage. Our platform elevated and celebrated all of the reasons millions of Americans flock to LGBTQ bars and cafes—and we rallied our support behind them. We gave a visible platform to the voices of this ever-growing, ever-prideful community.
Led by legitimacy, “Out & Open'' took off. Members of the LQBTQ community told their stories about the vital role these shared spaces play in their daily lives and their culture.
We launched a digital platform where diverse voices within the LGBTQ community shared their experiences in LGBTQ bars, highlighting the importance of keeping these spaces alive. Told through audio, 10 LGBTQ storytellers gave listeners an open and vulnerable glance into deeply personal moments, making this an intimate one-on-one experience.
We showcased Bowen Yang from Saturday Night Live, who reminisced about the NYC bar Eastern Bloc, which closed a few years ago. He summed it up by saying, "LGBTQ bars are monuments to our past, venues for the present, and gateways to our future." The stories were recorded within the walls of these vital spaces, captured by photographer/activist Bronson Farr, and released on Absolut.com.
We partnered with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) to make the organization’s mission more accessible to LGBTQ business owners across the country. We hosted live and virtual events in Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Denver, Minneapolis, Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.
We donated to NGLCC. In addition to a one-time donation of $200,000, each listen of our audio-visual series prompted an additional $1 donation (up to $10K) to the NGLCC’s efforts to help preserve establishments owned by members of the LGBTQ community. Proper succession planning is also important to help keep any business stay open, so we used our donations to fund additional succession planning sessions offered by the NGLCC.
It was a rewarding and exciting campaign—one that continues to this day. Content creation, social engagement, event planning, media junkets…all in the name of pridefully preserving LGBTQ’s sacred spaces.
We didn’t just raise awareness. We created a place—a platform—for the LGBTQ community to meet, discuss, and learn about the critical role played by their restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafes.
Absolut’s Out & Open initiative set out to reverse the trend of declining LGBTQ establishment listings in America. We wished to continue our effort to bolster this community by telling their stories and shining a spotlight on the important roles these places play within this spirited, united community. We didn’t just want to write a check or create a ubiquitous social badge. We wanted to support bars in a real way by expanding NGLCC’s succession planning sessions.
We did that with flying colors. And people from all over the spectrum noticed.
We were featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (unbeknownst to us!). Our audio-visual content inspired in-depth articles & social takeovers with Elle, PopSugar, Today, People, and CNET to name a few. We earned 636M+ media impressions, with 83 placements, and 100% positive sentiment.
All of this PR attention fueled the fire to support LGBTQ bars and restaurants across the country, and we raised over $210,000 for the NGLCC. With our continued efforts, we hope the queer community will always have safe places to meet, greet, plan, and prep. (And of course, drink some premium Swedish vodka!)