Picture it…March 14th, 2010.
A new establishment called Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar (formerly the one-and-only Sal’s Place) opened its doors for the very first time in Philly’s Gayborhood section and officially became the “baby brother” of already established siblings Bump, The Bike Stop, Uncle’s, 12th Air Command, The Westbury, Venture Inn (rest in peace, Ms. Reenie), Tavern on Camac, and of course, Woody’s.
Fast forward seven years, 3, 475 sports games 7, 543 drag queens’ wigs later, and it’s pretty safe to say to anyone that doubted a sports bar lasting in the Gayborhood that Tabu has already joined the ranks along with Tavern on Camac (because where would any queen be in life without Showtune Sundays?) and Woody’s as being not just a Gayborhood staple, but a true Philly staple. And while owners change hands and businesses change names or sadly close their doors forever, Tabu doesn’t look it will be slowing down on the runway anytime soon.
One of those reasons why is because from the very second it opened its doors into the rainbow, Tabu became quickly known for its philanthropic vibes. Much of this being in part to former manager Freddy Shelley, who took his one-of-a-kind good heart and fighting spirit to link up with many fabulous local organizations including Mazzoni Center, William Way Center, Planned Parenthood and The Attic Youth Center (anyone remember The Purple Party from that first year? Of course you do), all of whom still hold fabulous fundraisers that help in continuing these organizations to shine their light bright in the Gayborhood for anyone who needs it. Thank you, Mr. Shelley.
Of course, one of the fiercest reasons as to why Tabu still continues to hold its own is because all of the tremendous talent that has sashayed all over that coveted second story stage since day one. From Burlesque, to a Ms. Amber Hikes hosted Back 2 Basics party, to Sing Your Life Karaoke, to the beats served out from a Stro Kyle production to Mr. Josh Schonewolf who’ll continue to present until the end of time, there’s no genre from any walk of Philly entertainment life that hasn’t been welcomed into Tabu’s doors and into our rainbow lovin’ hearts.
And since we’re spilling about all of this talent, we must show our love to the ridiculously fierce, The Goddess Isis, whose Sinful Sundays drag extravaganza has not only lasted as long as Tabu itself, but has also become a true launching pad for Philly’s thriving local drag scene, in which anyone reading this right now knows that’s absolutely positively not an alternative fact.
Also adding to the flames (literally) is your current events queen, Philly Drag Mafia countess, Ms.Brittany Lynn, who continues to shatter records for most events served in one week (she averages about 36) and in case you’re wondering why, it’s because she’s Brittany Lynn, bitch and Tabu certainly knows this and then some, (By the way her official roast is on March 10th in which anyone reading this also knows she’ll do anything for a Klondike bar and a shameless plug).
But what it all comes down to is Tabu staying true to one word–and you may cue the Mary J—and that word is family. Of course, since no family is complete without its Godfather, we must all give it up right now to owner Jeffery Sotland, whose unique vision and keen eye for the right people seven years ago made all of this possible today and has turned Tabu into a place where indeed everybody knows your name.
I got the chance to have a quick chat with Mr. Sotland about the past, present and future of Tabu, in which he revealed that there might just might be some big changes ahead. Although he wouldn’t tip the tea cabinet over just yet, there’s no need to clutch those pearls because by now we all know that whatever he’s got cookin’ up, it’s simply going to werk.
Spill some Tabu tea with Mr. Sotland below and if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t checked in at Tabu yet, after you take a seat…get up and go.
Kicking off our spill, this March will mark seven years since Tabu opened its doors. Looking back, what are a few of your proudest moments that have taken place during that time? Three things….One…We were told there was no need for a sports bar in the Gayborhood and we proved everyone wrong…starting a trend that now sees many other bars wanting to imitate us. Two….We have provided a space for both the sports fan downstairs and the artists in the lounge. Who would have thought that the biggest sports bar would also be the biggest drag space? Three…..The proudest moments above all else are seeing the best staff, without a doubt, in the entire neighborhood embrace not only their craft of serving customers but also of embracing the philosophy and purpose of Tabu.
Let’s absolutely talk about drag for a moment as Tabu was and will continue to be a huge turning point for the scene. So, of course with that we must spill about Ms. Isis. With the exception of Sinful Sundays, because everyone and their drag mother has been to that show, what has been one moment she provided that you personally will never forget? She has consistently avoided the spotlight, refusing to enter competitions and trying to bring along all performers regardless of who they are. She has done a great job and I am constantly amazed at how many drag queens tell me they first performed at Sinful Sunday.
I know I can speak for a lot of people when I say that there’s just so many memories with that show, But looking ahead to the future of it all, where do you see Tabu going maybe five, ten years from now? Several years ago NBC news wrote an article about the death of gay bars. While I hope Tabu is here to stay, the death of he gay bar is somewhat inevitable as we find spaces that historically been unaccepting. That being said, Tabu has a game plan I cannot discuss at the moment but it definitely includes more than just the same old thing. We turn away so many people from the dining room and need a performance space larger than we have, the future will definitely address issues.
Keeping the future in mind with one last sip, what would you personally say to invite a new out-and-proud member of the LGBTQ community or any member of the Philly community who hasn’t experienced Tabu yet? Stop in…make a friend….enjoy the atmosphere of the most unpretentious, welcoming and diverse group. We have a great crowd of lgbtq and ally patrons from all walks of life.