NOLA’s says goodbye to C-U community, holds final event


The Daily Illini Photo File

NOLA’s Rock Bar prior to “Parti Gras HalloQueen Drag Show” on Oct. 24, 2020. NOLA”s Rock Bar in downtown Urbana holds its last event on Dec. 11 prior to the bar’s full closing.

By Kylie Corral, buzz Editor

NOLA’s Rock Bar, Champaign-Urbana’s New Orleans and Cajun-themed bar, has been a part of the community since October of 2020. Since then, the venue has helped bring lively events and people together during all seasons.

Latin night, Jazz Happy Hour and Thirsty Thursdays were all common and weekly attended events for the community. NOLA’s was also known for partnering with Uniting Pride, the LGBTQ+ resource for Champaign-Urbana, to host events like last June’s Pride Official Pre-Party.

On Dec. 11 NOLA’s held its very last event titled “Our Present 2U,” which featured a drag show and one last chance for people to gather in the beloved spot before closing its doors forever. 

Andrea Chute, one of the attendees at NOLA’s last organized night, said that even though she now lives in Springfield she’s come down to the bar at least one other time.

“I come to support the kids’ drag show and the drag queens as well but my good friend — her son’s in it and he loves to get out there and perform and be himself. So it’s fun that there’s an environment where the kids can do that,” she said.

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    Even though it was Chute’s second time at NOLA’s, she said that everyone always looked relaxed, enjoyed themselves and were happy to be there.

    However, Chute said she was also saddened by the news of the NOLA’s closing.

    “I think it is very sad. I just found out, and that’s why I wanted to make sure I got out here and try to support one more time. Like I said, it’s not just the bar but it’s an environment where everybody can be themselves. (I’ll miss) kind of getting out of town from where I’m from and going somewhere else. Just being able to step out and take a break,” she said.

    Angela Hood, another attendee of NOLA’s “Our Present 2U” event, said that she loved frequenting the bar because of its diverse atmosphere.

    “What I like about it is that it’s very diverse. It allows lots of events such as LGBTQ(+) events, Latin Nights, things like that, things that other bars in the area don’t necessarily have. For my family we come for the youth events, I have a son that performs in those, as well as the Latin nights for dancing. It’s a really good place and it’s sad,” she said.

    She said that it’s sad that now there is less of a community for people who attend these events, adding that it’s significant to have youth drag shows, so that youth in the community can have a place to express themselves.

    “People (at NOLA’s) are talking, people are kind of hanging out. It’s very much kind of family oriented, not family friendly oriented, but very much a family atmosphere, where lots of people know each other,” she said.

    Karima Duarte was another frequent visitor of NOLA’s who attended their last event. She said that she came for most of the Latin Nights that were planned for the week.

    “I met a lot of Latinos in the community as well as other people that were trying to learn how to dance,” she said.

    Duarte said that she too is sad that NOLA’s will be closing.

    “I feel sad because that’s one less place for me to go where I came to bond with my community,” she said. “It was very accepting and welcoming, like speaking from my experience, at Latin Night, if you didn’t know how to dance, nobody was judging you or anything,” Duarte said.

    Rose Smith, a local in the Champaign-Urbana community, said that she’s been to NOLA’s to attend the drag shows.

    “I have mostly been to the outside events. So I really liked the atmosphere that they built out there in the beer garden. And it’s just a really good inclusive, fun space,” she said.

    She said that even though NOLA’s is closing their door forever, she hopes that another great place opens where the business was open.

    “I think what they were trying to build here was really amazing. The manager specifically set out to set it up as space space, particularly one for her kid. So that’s particularly meaningful,” Smith said. “I think that’s really cool. And I think it’s unfortunate that another kind of queer-aligned space is closing after having other places in the area that have closed over the years. It feels like at least in my experience, there’s not as much of a concentrated safe space to go with your queer. Everything feels more spread out and like the community is a little bit more fragmented.”


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