Barcode’s First Decade
From Left To Right: Brian Southworth, Ted Ickes, Justin Davis, Scott Gray, Nathan Dovel, Brian Harris, and Chris Hall (not pictured) celebrate a decade at Barcode.
Brian Harris never expected to own a bar. Now, he can’t imagine doing anything else.
Barcode, the neighborhood bar by the corner of Grace and Foushee Streets, celebrated 10 years of business on Nov. 8. Harris celebrated that anniversary with six original team members still on staff – an impressive tenure for restaurant professionals.
In 2008, the team took a emotional blow when original owner Marcus Miller passed away. Miller left the bar to Harris and his friend, local entrepreneur Michael Gooding.
On top of losing a friend, they were also working through one of the toughest economic downturns in recent history and a time period where so much gay social activity had shifted to the Internet.
“Marcus took care of the what-ifs,” Harris said. ”When Michael and I came in the year he passed in 2008 – I’ll be honest – we weren’t sure if we were going to keep it going or not…I really feel proud that we’ve sustained through that. I feel if we made it through that, it’s going to take a lot to bring us down.”
Before opening Barcode, Miller had managed Ruby Tuesdays and had a hand in managing Fieldens, a former private nightclub that catered to the LGBT community.
When Michael Pace, the owner of Casablanca, the former bar in the current space was ready to sell, Miller was ready to jump on it.
Harris, who before jumping in the service industry had 10 years of clerical experience working at the post office, met Miller when he managed Fieldens. Miller knew Harris was bartending at Hops, a brewpub chain formerly on West Broad.
Prior to opening Barcode, Miller sent a secret shopper to evaluate Harris. In 2001, months before opening, Miller offered Harris a job bartending and in 2003, offered him a position as manager.
According to Harris, Miller was a big supporter of the community and always wanted a bar to call his own.
“People that knew Marcus very well, knew he was big on charity, but never put his name into it,” Harris said. ”I did admire it. A lot of his good work was very undercover and behind closed doors.”
This was his baby – there weren’t too many gay bars at that point. During that time frame, Richmond only had three or four places to choose from – sometimes one or two depending on the year according to Harris.
Keeping The Dream Alive
“The underlying reason we did keep it open was for the community, for the staff, and to keep his dream going. I couldn’t stop thinking how disappointed Marcus would feel if it closed.
“Now that we’ve gotten a good taste of it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything, I’d fight for it.”
As for the Internet?
“It’s definitely impacted business and you can tell, but there’s always going to be that need for human interaction – I feel that,” he said. ”As cyberspace grows, people are going to need to get out and talk to someone face-to-face. I don’t think the Internet’s ever going to provide that completely.”
One things that has worked in Barcode’s favor according to Harris, is the welcoming atmosphere for all.
“We’re not just limited to the LGBT community although they are our primary customer. Diversity makes an atmosphere like this so much fun. Straight girls are just in a dreamland in here – they have all these guys buying them shots,” Harris said. He jokes that it’s a wonderland for straight boys too.
Miller didn’t want Barcode to focus on shows or entertainment, but be a neighborhood bar – a place to hangout and socialize. ”I think we’ve achieved that somewhat,” Harris said.
“He wanted to provide a stable bar for the community that would be here for a while.
“I think he would be happy that it made it ten years and hopefully make it ten more.”
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Next Thursday, Sept. 1, marks the start of Virginia Pride month, celebrating and honoring the entire LGBTQ community. You can kick yours off right at VA Pride and OutRVA‘s celebration at Quirk Hotel. At the party, guests will have the opportunity to taste two craft beers exclusively made for VA Pride and OutRVA, a collaboration with Ardent [...]August 22, 2016
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