In 2020, Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon, the gay married couple behind Lambda Vodka launched Harlem’s hip, upscale LGBTQ+ bar Lambda Lounge. It was such a success that the couple is now opening their second queer bar, Club Lambda Brooklyn.
Solomon explains that the clubs are part a natural progression, arising from their efforts to promote their spirits as minority business owners. “With so many spirits on the market and with us being a small brand and not having a marketing budget and distribution budget, we weren’t able to maximize our sales. That’s where the idea of, ‘Well, let’s open a location and sell our spirit ourselves!’”
Hughes and Solomon say an incident in a New York Black club where the DJ screamed, “Men don’t dance with men here!” that was another factor in their decision to open Lambda Lounge. New York City’s second Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar drew a wide range of patrons including Lil Nas X, and actresses Meagan Good and Jerrie Johnson from the Amazon Prime series Harlem.
Indeed, the couple acknowledge, the lounge’s popularity has surpassed that of the vodka. But that success obviously isn’t assured with Club Lambda, Brooklyn’s only Black-owned LGBTQ+ nightclub, where Solomon says the biggest challenge is one of scale.
“The first location is about 1,600 square feet. [With Club Lambda] we acquired a location that’s 5,000 square feet. It’s kind of like we jumped into the deep end with this. Lambda Lounge in Harlem was only opened about two years when we decided to open this new location. We are still pretty new in this industry…so I would have to say just the size, and increasing the staff, and things of that nature has made it very challenging for us.”
But Hughes says he found a model for success in his own past. “With me being from Virginia, in my early 20s I would party a lot in Washington, D.C. There was one particular club that I went to called The Edge that had a hip-hop room, it had a house music room, and then it had an outside area. And when we found our location, I said to myself, ‘I want to make this place feel like I did when I was in my early twenties partying.’ That’s why in the new location, with it being 5,000 square feet, we’ve made one of the areas hip-hop, and one of the areas house music, as well as an outside garden.”
Club Lambda is located at 1031 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211