Gay hiking

Cathedral City was the first stop for gay bars in the desert

Opening and operating gay bars, restaurants and hotels in Cathedral City was easier than in Palms Springs. “The powers that be in Palm Springs were not tolerant of this kind of activity,” said Desert Business Association director Tom Childs in a 1984 article in The desert sun. “That’s why so many gay bars and restaurants are in Cathedral City.”

Like many other places in the country, gay bars have been harassed by the police. In February 1983, Riverside County deputies checked business licenses at six gay bars, but not at the other two non-gay bars in Cathedral City. “At one bar, three deputies in two patrol cars arrived at midnight, the peak hour of the week for this tavern and most other taverns, the bar owners said. “This operation intimidated their customers and looked like a discriminatory sweep.” (The GAF was also burned down in 1981 and The Barracks was raided for “overcapacity” in 2011).

Although there were as many as 50 gay bars in Cathedral City over the years, they began to decline in the 1990s as more gay bars and hotels opened in Palm Springs. Today Cathedral City is experiencing a resurgence of its gay past with its LGBT days (held last month for the sixth time) and more LGBT establishments are opening as more LGBTQ+ people call Cathedral City home.

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This is part of a monthly series on LGBTQ+ history created by LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert.

The organization is focused on documenting and preserving the Coachella Valley’s LGBTQ+ history, and sharing it with LGBTQ+ individuals, organizations, allies, and the public. Still in its infancy, the Desert LGBTQ+ History and Archives is currently researching records and memorabilia from bars, inns, restaurants, publications, LGBT organizations, and individuals in and around Palm Springs.

If you have LGBTQ+ treasures you would like to donate, questions about the organization, or if you are interested in donating or volunteering and getting involved in these efforts, contact the organization by email: [email protected] You can also follow on Facebook, @lgbtqpshistory.

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