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Variety

Longtime Friends Open D.C.’s First Black-Owned LGBTQ+ Lounge

Thurst Lounge owners discuss the LGBTQ+ lounge’s impact.

Low pink lighting casts over the black and gold furniture in Thurst Lounge, a new Black-owned LGBTQ+ bar on U Street.  (Photo Courtesy of Thurst Lounge)

Just two blocks north of U Street, Thurst Lounge made history as D.C.’s only Black-owned LGBTQ+ lounge. 

Longtime friends Brandon Burke and Shaun Mykals are the proud owners of Thurst, which opened in December 2023.

The pair said that the idea behind creating the space began over 10 years ago when they hosted a Thursday Bliss Open Mic Experience at the now-closed Bohemian Caverns. 

After moving around a few times and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burke and Mykals said they had to figure out what was next.

“Our main supporters have been the LGBT community,” Burke said. “And so we were like, well, why don’t we just lean into that and create D.C.’s Black-owned LGBTQ space?” 

Burke said that Washington, D.C., of all places, deserves to have a Black LGBTQ+ lounge. 

“It doesn’t make sense for us not to have this in D.C., Chocolate City of all places,” he said. “So it’s been about a two-and-a-half-year journey of figuring out what we wanted to do and how to get funding and who to partner with.”

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After the two connected with their business partners, they found the space in spring 2023, signed the lease in October and promptly started renovations. 

Described as a “love letter to D.C.’s Black queer community,” the two-story building includes a variety of art features, such as a mural that says “Love Who You Are,” with the names of LGBTQ+ icons and portraits of famous singers like Beyoncé and Rihanna, that line the walls of the lowly-lit lounge.

Burke says that Thurst highlights the importance and demand for LGBTQ+ spaces.

“It gives you a sense of like, hey, we have power, and we have a space of our own where we can nurture and love and respect, and I think that we see that a lot with a lot of the customers who have come through who just are so thankful that we created it,” he said.

The owners say that Thurst’s patrons vary in age. Burke recalled a 71-year-old customer thanking him for the space. 

Jesiah Allen, a junior health sciences major and the current inaugural Lavender Committee chair, says that Black-owned LGBTQ+ spaces are “vital.”

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“It really does provide comfortability and having that space where you don’t have to feel like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to be someone else,’” Allen said. “You can truly be your authentic self around people that love you for that, and are accepting you for that. It really is so important for learning who you want to be in the world.” 

Mykals says that Thurst offers an ideal space to launch one’s nightlife journey, especially for Howard students. 

“We created Thurst with all of that in mind, like what our experience was, what were the good feelings that we got when we went out, why did we enjoy ourselves, why didn’t we enjoy ourselves. In creating this space, we took all of that into account,” he said. “And I think that intention that was set in the beginning is being felt by the customers.”

Allen commended Thurst as an accepting and welcoming place.

“I have gone with my other friends before and they’ve always felt comfortable going there as well with me just because of how accepting everyone is,” he said. “The music is always good. I do like that it’s mostly Black people there just because there’s just something that just makes it more welcoming and homey.”

Thurst Lounge opens at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with a new daily happy hour from 5-8 p.m. and free entry.

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“We encourage people to come out and to enjoy the slash in prices for the drinks and for the food,” Mykals said. “We did that specifically so that, you know, people can come and not break their pockets when they’re trying to have a good time.” 

More information about Thurst can be found on their website.

Copy edited by Jalyn Lovelady

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