An LGBTQ bar opened on Nov. 12 in Oceanside. Gina Caggiano, owner of North Village Tavern in Rockville Centre, and her fiancé, David Wuestmann, openied BTW, which stands for “born this way,” on Long Beach Road.
The establishment will welcome all in the queer community, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, as well as other nonconforming genders and sexualities, “but of course, all are welcome,” its Facebook page says.
Caggiano, an ally to the LGBTQ community, said that patrons of her Rockville Centre bar frequently spoke about wanting a “gay bar” in the area. For two years, she’s been trying to make that happen.
“I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support for this place from people — straight and gay,” Caggiano said. “They seem to say this is very needed.”
One customer at North Village Tavern, P.J. Henderson, of Long Beach, said he was excited for BTW to open and plans to visit frequently with his husband. Henderson noted that there used to be several gay bars in Nassau County, such as Pal Joey’s in Bellmore and The Silver Lining in Floral Park, but all but one have closed; the last remaining is NuBar in Farmingdale.
“There was a large loss of personal social interaction,” Henderson said. “Now with there being a place opening up, people can meet face to face in a friendly environment.”
Caggiano had hired bartenders, including Korey Hester, a transgender man, in February. However, when Covid-19 hit, construction on the space was put off and the grand opening postponed from spring to fall.
Hester, 50, of West Islip, has been bartending for about 30 years, but more recently has not been able to make a steady living with the fading of LGBTQ-friendly bars in the area. Therefore, he said, BTW was worth the wait.
“When [you’re LGBTQ] and you go into a regular establishment with your partner, you’ll get people who try to push the envelope or do and say inappropriate things,” he explained. “If a lesbian couple goes into a straight establishment, there’s always someone who will create an uncomfortable situation.
“Here we don’t have to worry about people who have too many drinks and tease you because you’re gay,” he continued. “It’s happened many times in my life. It’s nice to have a space where you can be yourself.”
Caggiano said she’s proud of the business she’s creating, from the work she’s put into the physical space to the clientele she’s gained support from. Before Caggiano secured the space, there was no kitchen, which she had to add. She also had to move a bar from the middle of the room to the side.
Though BTW will not open as ordinary due to Covid-19 restrictions — “it will be more of a gay restaurant than a gay bar,” Caggiano said — the excitement is still building. BTW is engaging its audience via Facebook to see what events they’d like to see in the future. The restaurant also has a website, BTWoceanside.com, and patrons are encouraged to reserve a table online before visiting.
“It will be a consistent spot within the community, which is something we haven’t had in a long time,” Hester said, “just to have someplace you can go and be yourself and do trivia night or dance night or wings. It really is exciting.”