Tribe celebrates five years in business

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by Linda Welch
Inside Out Nashville

It’s hard to believe that Tribe, the bar that many consider to be the anchor of Church Street GLBT nightlife, has been open five years on Friday, May 11.

In many ways it seems like Tribe opened just yesterday, and yet the energy and crowds it continues to draw makes one feel like it’s been there forever.

“The place really has exceeded our wildest expectations,” says David Taylor, co-owner of Tribe. “When my business partner, Keith Blaydes, and I got this wild folly to open a bar, we hoped to provide a nice place for folks to go on Wednesday nights and before going dancing on the weekends. The reception that the community gave to us when we opened and continues to give to us now has always been greatly appreciated and we are constantly working to keep Tribe fresh and new, and a place in which the community can be proud.”

Keith Blaydes adds, “we always jokingly said that we wanted a place that was nice enough to take your mother, although you probably never would. But when we opened, customers really DID bring their mothers and other family members and coworkers. A totally unexpected result of the bar was that it became a place for “hip straight people” to hang out with their gay & lesbian friends.”

Tribe has always attracted a nice mix of people – spanning the spectrum of age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.

“We’ve always strived for a place where anyone can come and feel comfortable and have a good time,” says Taylor, “and I am proud that we were able to accomplish that. While the look and feel of the place is warm and comfortable, what really helps create a welcoming environment is the wonderful staff that we have. I don’t know of another place that has such friendly, hardworking, dedicated folks who are committed to serving our customers as we have at Tribe (and of course Play since we share many of the same employees!)”

When it opened in May of 2002, Tribe was named “Nashville’s First Mainstream Gay Bar” by the Tennessean because of its upscale look, its clientele, and the fact that it was the first GLBT bar to have a clear, open storefront on one of Nashville’s busiest streets. The Nashville Scene named it the “Best Bar that makes you feel like your not in Nashville” in the same year. It quickly grew to be one of the most popular spots in town, gay or straight, and has been recognized as Nashville’s “Best Gay Bar” by the Scene, Out & About Newspaper, CSFP, and CitySearch.com most years since.

Many credit Tribe with starting the Church Street Nightlife District.

“We certainly weren’t the first on the street,” says Taylor. “There were always GLBT businesses in the Church Street area including OutLoud! and the World’s End as well as the earlier clubs, such as B. Pallola’s. What was unique about us was that we came along when there were others already on the street; we opened in a new block, and it all of a sudden felt like there was critical mass here – it felt like a district.  Others were the trendsetters on Church Street; we just came along and helped give the area a more defined identity. And that has since attracted other businesses to the area, which we think is great.”

Manager Bud East is excited about the birthday plans.

“We will have balloons and decorations galore,” says East, who is known for his party decorations that transform Tribe almost monthly into themed party events, “and of course we’ll have cake and ice cream and some great drink specials. It will be a special party, and I hope that all of our customers will come out and help us celebrate!”

Tribe is located at 1517 Church Street. The birthday party is planned for Friday, May 11th. Tribe’s Website is www.TribeNashville.com