Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bad Dolly's

210 West Commercial Row today
Bad Dolly's

Location: 210 West Commercial Row, Reno, Nevada, USA. Sometimes listed as 535 East 4th Street, Reno.

Opened/Closed: 1990s

I don't have a lot of information on Bad Dolly's--though I do love the name!

In May 2010, a blogger known as Star of Prague mentioned that Bad Dolly's was one of many gay and lesbian bars in Reno that had been "closed or renamed in the last 15 years." In particular,

Bliss was Masquerade’s was Stock Exchange was Bad Dolly’s (the infamous lesbian bar on East Fourth Street, yeah ask your grandfather about that, or your grandmother for that matter). 

So how old was Bad Dolly's? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. (Though I do rather doubt that my own teatotaling grandmother ever hung out there.)

It was open at least as early as March 1992, because there is a passing reference to Bad Dolly's in a federal investigation report. Seems a fugitive wanted in an October 1991 bombing in Roslindale, Massachusetts had hightailed it out to San Francisco, where he was he was eventually caught. As part of the investigation into the fugitive's activities, federal agents scouted out many gay and lesbian bars in Reno, one of which was Bad Dolly's. 

We know that there was a rally here in February 1994 to protest a proposed statewide anti-gay initiative, and that Governor Bob Miller and Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones attended--along with about 200 other people.

It was still open in November 1998, because a blogger mentions going on a road trip to Reno (in search of cheap cigarettes!), and that Bad Dolly's was one of the "queer" establishments patronized along the way. Though failing to offer any direct observations regarding Bad Dolly's, the following general observations were duly recorded:

I do not understand queerdom in Reno. There always seem to be lots of bars. There never seem to be any people in them. Friday night on a holiday weekend, thousands of people in town, packed casinos, yet there were no more than 10-15 people in any of the four bars we hit. Am I missing something?

Names of the bars (just in case): Quest, 1099, Bad Dolly’s, Five Star. And let me tell you there’s a lot of real estate invoved if you cover that circuit on foot. In the cold. And the rain.

As a rule, Reno watering holes seem to attract an ample quota of transients, drifters, and generic tourists. But Bad Dolly's also had its fair share of loyal patrons and even community outreach activities. For instance, we find reference to a Dykes in Drag fundraiser held at Bad Dolly's for breast cancer, probably in the early 1990s.

As to when Bad Dolly's expired, it couldn't have been long after the cheap smokes quest. An October 2001 article on lesbian life in Northern Nevada mentions the opening of new lesbian bar called the Blue Cactus Bar & Nightclub. And how the Blue Cactus was apparently "Reno’s only lesbian bar since Bad Dolly’s closed years ago."

Photo: 210 West Commercial Row today

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