ASHEVILLE — National recognition has been bestowed on an Asheville company with a long history of entertainment and advocacy.
O. Henry’s, a downtown nightclub, is on Esquire magazine’s list of “America’s 32 Best Gay Bars.”
The list was curated by the publication’s editors and contributors across the country who searched for “the most fun and inclusive LGBTQ+ bars across the United States”
“It’s exciting,” said owner Derick Boyd. “From across the country, being nominated is quite a prestigious honor, and we’re proud of our staff and everyone else here.”
Esquire described O. Henry’s as a “clandestine” dance party and music venue that “appeals to all walks of life and demographics.” A special mention was given to its dance club space, The Underground.
The Asheville bar is in the company of establishments in cities like Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Nashville, New York, San Francisco and Washington.
Previously:Inside one of Esquire’s “Best Bars in America” in downtown Asheville
To Boyd’s knowledge, this is the first time O. Henry’s has received national recognition.
“I think they came and saw that we were doing it and we were doing it well,” Boyd said. “Everyone is equal here. No discrimination, no judgment.
Opened in 1976, O. Henry’s is considered the oldest gay bar in North Carolina. Boyd, owner for nine years, credits the company’s longevity to its progressive character and welcoming environment.
“It’s kind of one of those things where you walk in and everyone knows you. If you’re a visitor, everyone greets you,” Boyd said. has a bunch of different crowds that come from all sexualities or gender groups. It’s constantly changing with new trends and things happening, but we try to stick to the basics. We’re a gay bar, we are a safe place and we are going to be as friendly as possible here.
O. Henry’s is the place to grab a drink, sing a song on karaoke Wednesdays, catch a weekend drag show, and dance like nobody’s watching on weeknights.
It is also a cornerstone of the LGBTQ community. Vigils, benefits and commemorations are held at the site and the O. Henry offers assistance to individuals from name changes during the transition to financial support.
“We’re still the place, everything that happens in the gay community happens here,” Boyd said. “Say they don’t have family for the funeral, they’re having the funeral here. Every time someone gets sick, we organize a fundraiser for them. Going to school, having sex surgery – we try to help as much as possible.
As for the future of the historic site: “We are here and have no intention of going anywhere,” Boyd said.
This is the second time this year that Esquire has spotlighted an Asheville bar. In June, Session at Citizen Vinyl made the publication’s list of America’s Top 25 Bars of 2022.
Where: 237 Haywood Street, Asheville
Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily
Info: For more details, visit ohenrysofasheville.com. See Esquire’s full list at esquire.com.
Tiana Kennell is a food and restaurant reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Help support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.