A New York City couple is opening a new LGBTQ+ club in Brooklyn following the success of opening a lounge amid the pandemic.
Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon didn’t expect to fall into the club and spirits industry. Bronx native Solomon was working in IT while his husband Hughes (originally from Richmond, Virginia) was working in insurance. They had purchased a multi-family investment home in the Bronx, and had plans to buy another but the deal fell through.
“We had a bit of money on hand, so we thought, what can we do with it?” recalled Hughes. “I was sitting at work one day, looking at the computer, and an advertisement for Ciroc came across the screen and I thought, why doesn’t the LGBTQ community have a spirit that targets them. So we create Lambda Vodka.”
With the launch of Lambda Vodka, Hughes and Solomon started to saturate the urban LGBTQ market within organizations and sponsoring events and tastings. Though the couple found some initial success in the spirits industry in the first five years, it did not reach the point where they could leave their full-time careers. So the question was, how do they take the Lambda brand to the next step?
The answer was Lambda Lounge, an LGBTQ+ friendly space in Harlem.
“We had to talk to ourselves and say, what’s our next step? Are we going to stop this or are we going to find a way to give this some positive income?” said Hughes. “Let’s open a bar. That’s where Lambda Lounge came into play.”
Lambda Lounge opened to the public in 2020, and naturally met some trials and tribulations in the initial opening. However, Hughes says that the team was able to adjust to the changes caused by COVID-19 and not only have the bar stay afloat, but also thrive amid the pandemic.
“We saw that a lot of urban communities didn’t have a location that they could go to every night of the week,” said Hughes. “Brooklyn didn’t have this, so we are opening Club Lambda.”
Unlike Lambda Lounge, Club Lambda is a 5,000-square-foot, two-story space that allows for more visitors to come and party. With this new bigger, space, they want to have all sorts of nights that are geared toward different members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Hughes and Solomon noticed that the bar, though open to the entirety of New York City’s LGBTQ+ community, the main demographic tended to be gay Black men, and they wanted to diversify their audience with a new space.
“In Harlem, we are an LGBTQ+ location but we seem to really segment it to the urban male market, which we tried to extend it but weren’t able to grasp other demographics outside the gay, Black male,” said Hughes. “So with Brooklyn, and being a larger location, we are diversifying a lot where we are going to have trans night, lesbian night, and in talks of having another promoter coming in and throwing a party with a lot of non-binary people, queer people, all elements coming into play.”
Regardless, the couple says that Club Lambda and Lambda Lounge are safe spaces for the entire LGBTQ community.
“We were created by the urban community, but we don’t discriminate against anyone in the LGBTQ community,” said Hughes. “That’s what we want to make known by everybody. I’ve had people come up to me, a young trans person say I thought it wasn’t a place I could go. I said oh no, you’re more than welcome. That’s why we want to have a night for them. All are welcome here.”
Hughes says it’s very surreal to have opened two physical locations amid the pandemic, and he and Solomon are grateful and humbled by the experience. He also recognizes that owning and operating these spaces for the LGBTQ+ community comes with great responsibility.
“Initially, you want to do things, especially as a party promoter and owner, that are fun. But after you start to dive into the operations, you realize, oh I have a duty to my community to provide this for them, but not only provide it but provide it correctly,” said Hughes. “Now it’s like I have to put on my big boy pants and take this seriously, I am responsible for my community. I have to give them something they really want to see and do it right.”
Hughes says it’s absolutely crucial for the LGBTQ+ community to have these spaces to go, considering in the past the community has been crammed into a specific time period for clubs and bars, while the clubs reaped the benefits.
“What we saw before we opened a location was we were given one night within a particular hour or timeframe to have parties or a location to go to,” said Hughes. “Now we have something that we can go to 6-7 days a week where we can be comfortable and see people who look like ourselves either in the location or on social media. We weren’t given exposure on social media on a lot of these platforms but we were generating a large number of their revenue.”
Down the line, not only would Hughes and Solomon like to expand the Lambda Vodka line (which is the primary vodka sold at both Lambda Lounge and Club Lambda) to include other spirits, they would like to see clubs and lounges under the Lambda brand open in major metropolitan areas that are lacking a space for the community.
“We’re focusing on satisfying a need in the community, if there is a need within red states, we would be open to doing that,” said Hughes. “But we’re seeing that need in a lot of blue states that are larger and the focus was going towards those states.”
Club Lambda is located at 1031 Grand Street in Bushwick and is opening to the public on May 6. You can RSVP for the opening night at Club Lambda at lambdaloungeny.com. For more information, follow Club Lambda on Instagram @club_lambda_bk.