NOLA’s offers safe space for LGBTQ+ community beyond Pride Month

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Photo Courtesy of NOLA's Rock Bar Facebook

NOLA’s Rock Bar outdoor patio houses a Thursday night “The Mic” comedy gathering with a multitude of patrons. The bar acts as a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community that extends beyond Pride Month.

By Carolina Garibay, Buzz Editor

Pride Month is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean that the support for the LGBTQ+ community has to end too. Though Champaign offered several events during Pride Month to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, the welcoming atmosphere in Champaign doesn’t end on June 30, and NOLA’s Rock Bar in Urbana is making sure of that.

NOLA’s is a New Orleans, Cajun-themed bar that frequently hosts live events. The bar is also a dedicated safe space for LGBTQ+ folks, and general manager of the bar Pamela Wakefield says that actively fostering a safe for the LGBTQ+ community is crucial to her.

“I have always made it very clear that NOLA’s is welcoming of everyone,” Wakefield said. “Hate is not tolerated in any way shape fashion or form in my bar. If I catch it if I see it, I will immediately remove you from the bar, but that’s just the way it is. There’s no room in my life or in my space for any type of discrimination against anyone for anything.

Wakefield has been a member of the C-U community for over 20 years and was a bar manager in training at The Canopy Club prior to becoming the general manager of NOLA’s in 2019 before its rebranding in 2020. With this rebranding came an expanded menu and a bigger focus on the restaurant aspect of the bar.

As general manager, Wakefield has been able to host different pride-related events, especially this month. At the beginning of the month, for example, Nola’s hosted the Drag Picnic afterparty with Uniting Pride of Champaign County where people gathered for a drag performance after a Drag Picnic hosted by drag performer Karma Carrington.

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    Wakefield says the event was a huge success and that she loves being able to host those types of events.

    “I love working with the drag queens and just the entire community,” Wakefield said. “I’ve known a lot of the performers in the area for many, many years, and so just being able to manage a bar and being able to host events for them is a big thing for me.”

    A few other events Nola’s hosted included a pride talent show, and a pride and Juneteenth celebration on June 19, which included two drag shows and featured local community organizations.

    Wakefield has clearly been busy this month hosting different events in celebration of Pride, but what encouraged her to bring her LGBTQ+ allyship to her job? Being African American and having friends who are LGBTQ+ has exposed her to situations of unfair treatment. This became a big motivation for creating a safe space.

    “I have been in situations with them where I’ve noticed that they’re not welcome in places,” Wakefield said. “I, also being African American, have been in places where I know that there are places still to this day where we are not welcome, and being a bar manager and knowing that these things are still happening is very upsetting to me.”

    Though Pride Month is ending, NOLA will continue to be a welcoming and safe space for all, especially for the LGBTQ+ community, said Wakefield.

    “I want all of my customers in the bar to feel welcome, to feel safe, to feel as though they would never have anything to be concerned with while in my space,” she said.

    Future events include open mic nights on Mondays, an open jam every other Tuesday that features a house band, open mic comedy nights with C-U Comedy every Thursday, a jazz happy hour Fridays and much more. For a full list of NOLA’s events, you can visit their website.

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