SAN DIEGO -- Bars and nightclubs have been a part of gay culture for decades, serving as some of the earliest meeting spots and a refuge for a community that had to hide itself from the rest of the world. While bars are no longer the only safe space for LGBT people, these establishments still hold a special place in the community and the team at I Heart Gay Bars want to celebrate them.
Created by business and life partners R. Matt Young and Jason Cooper, I Heart Gay Bars is a T-shirt club that each month spotlights a different gay bar around the world with a custom made shirt and information card. For just $24 a month, club members receive a new T-shirt, with sizes small through XX-large available.
With their T-shirt, club members also receive a postcard that gives information about that month’s spotlighted bar. Anyone can also access the I Heart Gay Bars website to read about that month’s bar. Young and Cooper have visited many of the featured bars (and hope to visit them all one day!) since launching the company’s Facebook page in October 2012 (and in just over a year and a half, they have amassed over 138,000 follower on Facebook!).
The first T-shirt debuted in September 2013, featuring Jimmy’s Place in Aruba, and have also featured bars in places like Indiana, Australia and South Africa.
Young and Cooper, who also own a digital marketing agency, said the idea for I Heart Gay Bars came when they were traveling and struggled to find a gay bar during their trip. Their initial idea was to create some sort of smart phone app that would help people locate bars and nightspots around the world, but ended up starting with the T-shirt club idea, which has helped fund the business.
They began by reaching out to some of their favorite bars around the world, and as the concept quickly achieved popularity, bars starting reaching out to Young and Cooper for inclusion in the program. I Heart Gay Bars tries to focus on bars with interesting stories, and the company is particularly interested in supporting and driving business to smaller bars.
February’s featured bar has been dtm in Helsinki, Finland. The bar is said to be the largest gay bar and nightclub in Northern Europe, and the undisputed leader in Finland’s gay nightlife. More about this month’s bar is here.
While I Heart Gay Bars focuses on bars around the globe, the company is based right here in San Diego, with their office space in the heart of Hillcrest. Young and Cooper have not featured a bar here in town, but will soon feature Hillcrest Brewing Company, hailed as the first gay brewery in the world.
The T-shirt club has become very popular and the owners plan to continue that for a long time to come, as well as other expansions into the future. Ideas include I Heart Gay Bars guided tours in places such as Eastern Europe, a smartphone app, and an avenue for gay bars to advertise using geo-location. The company hopes to retain its focus on gay bars, and continue to highlight these special places that bring the community together every day and night for celebration, companionship, and an outlet to be free.
To join the I Heart Gay Bars t-shirt club, click HERE.
For more information about it works, click HERE.