Maybe you’ve seen it on social media? That delightfully absurd sight: about a dozen people, packed tightly and shrouded in a haze of smoke, running to finish their cigarettes. Contestants wrestled in kiddie pools filled with lube and competed in other competitions until the end of the day, all in pursuit of the grand prize: vouchers for fillers and Botox.
It was the Twinks vs. Dolls Olympics, a tournament that pits gay men and transmasculine people against trans women. The event was hosted by Singers, a bustling bar on a quiet street in Brooklyn. The viral video of that cigarette marathon has repeatedly fueled praise and loathing — and of course, merchandise — on social media over the past year.
But it’s not always cigarette contests and boozy wrestling matches when you walk through the doors of Singers. Sometimes it’s a sauna rave. at other times, a pop-up petting zoo or screening of “Paper Moon”,, This was followed by a show and tell featuring a can of beans signed by Burton Gilliam, the actor who had a minor role in the film.
“The world is on fire,” said Erik Escobar, 30, the singer’s social media and event coordinator. “We might as well laugh for a minute.” Although most of the time, Singers in Bedford-Stuyvesant is, mostly, though not exclusively, a cool hangout spot for quirky clientele, which is decidedly less cool at night.
This laid-back and unpredictable quality is part of the singers’ appeal, said writer and regular singer PE Moskowitz, who helped organize Twinks vs. Dolls. “When I go to a hip bar like Clandestino’s, I feel like I’m being watched,” Mx. said Moskowitz, 35, who is nonbinary and uses they and they pronouns. “But when I go here, I’ll be wearing really sweaty tennis clothes,” which he actually wore on a recent Thursday evening.
“Maybe some people come here because they think it’s a nice place, but don’t mind, I don’t think it’s a nice place,” he said. “It’s a place where no one knows your name except the people you know.”
Singers, which opened its doors in May 2022, is housed in a converted warehouse that had been lying unused since the gastro pub’s closure in 2018. Michael Guisinger and Brooke Peshke, who own Singers and live near the bar, had noticed the space had been vacant for years and wanted to turn the restaurant into a neighborhood saloon. He initially thought of naming it Guisinger, but decided that Singers was easier to pronounce.
Singers draw a cool crowd during the day before crowding out at night: stylish gay guys with pan-European accents, couples on awkward first dates, single journalists on assignment drinking “Not Lasagna No. 1” (a spicy pineapple margarita bar) It has recently been rebranded as “Girl’s Diner”).
The diverse crowd that Singers attracts can be partially attributed to its branding—or rather, the lack thereof. Its exterior is nondescript, with no distinctive LGBTQ markers like rainbows or trans flags, but word-of-mouth publicity has attracted a growing group of regulars.
The staff reflects this mix of patrons, as does Chalo Everybody, a bar a few blocks away known for its drag shows. Singers manager Miles Platt said, “It’s not a lesbian bar or a gay bar or a trans bar, because it’s a bar run by lesbian, gay and trans people.”
Kelly McCarthy, manager of the nearby photography shop Exposure Therapy, spends many nights at Singers. He said he liked that the bar doesn’t only serve one type of LGBTQ clientele. “It’s doll-friendly, it’s trans-friendly, it’s non-binary-friendly,” she said. “People who are cool with those groups, even people who are really bothered by those groups, can all feel very comfortable there.”
On any given night, the patrons said, you might recognize someone you know from the bizarre area of X, formerly known as Twitter, or maybe someone you saw on a gay dating app.
The bar has a vending machine in the red-lit back room, which, depending on the inventory, sells gum, Emergen-C, collagen face masks, disposable cameras, and even USBs stored with every “Final Destination” movie can also be kept. “Like, we can fit anything in there,” Mr. Escobar said.
However, tampons are free; The venue’s lone single-stall restroom has a neatly placed pyramid perched atop one ledge beside an aromatherapy diffuser.
Ms. McCarthy makes a special effort to never miss the typical Wednesday nights. “A few weeks ago,” she said, “the first category was ‘Martha Stewart’s Time in Jail.’
There is also karaoke on Sundays, film screenings on Mondays, and trivia on Wednesdays, though it is the solo, often unannounced programming that sets Singers apart. The bar may host a “pig party” – literally featuring piglets – or New York nightlife fixtures Kevin may drape carpet over the doorway between the bar and the back room, waiting to proceed. Used to be.
“We did a photo booth pop-up for Christmas and Valentine’s Day,” said Drew Adler, owner of Exposure Therapy. “In the day the parents came with their children, then at night all the naked Cupids would have their pictures taken.”
Cat Zhang, 26, a Singers regular member and editor at Pitchfork, received an invitation to a sauna rave at Singers in April, which didn’t name the bar but listed its address. He said, “I thought there was no way Singers could be made like a sauna,” but yes, it happened.
Freezer-flap curtains hung over doors, fog machines completely destroyed Borscht Martins Served at the bar. Ms. Zhang, who returned home with a Singers-branded bathrobe, said, “They had steaming coals, eucalyptus towels, everything was hazy.”
The next day business was as usual. The singers had no evidence that anything unusual had occurred. It was typical of the bar, Mr. Escobar said. “We’ll hold a party once and then scrap it, reuse it, cut it into pieces and come up with something new,” he said. “Anything to make people feel crazy and alive.”