Bretz Nightclub celebrates 30 years of LGBT acceptance

. March 21, 2017.
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Sometimes you want a place where you can be with the family you choose. Those friends who know you better than those whose blood you share.

Sometimes you just want a place where you can dance around the patio in your bathing suit, frolicking in foam.

Since April 1, 1987, Bretz has been a place to be classy, wild, fun, comfortable and simply be yourself. Thirty years later, the nightclub at the far western end of Adams Street is now the longest-running LGBT dance club in Ohio.

Reunion fit for a queen

On April 1, 2017, Bretz invites you to party like it’s 1987 again, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. With the club open at 7pm, to mirror its original opening time, DJ 3 PM will host guest DJs and entertainers from years past, reuniting clubgoers with many Bretz favorites from the past three decades. Among those scheduled to appear are drag queens Deja Dellataro (serving as host, emcee and show director), Eve Madison, Autumn DeLaRue, Porsha Armani and Santana Romero, as well as a special performance by 1988’s original Miss Bretz, Patricia Holt. The club will debut a new LED lighting and sound system at the party.

The year 1987 may have been 30 years ago, but it may as well have been a different lifetime when it comes to the Toledo gay-bar scene. Thirty years ago, gay bars weren’t just a place to grab a drink and party. Oftentimes, they were the only place members of the LGBT community could be themselves.

Greg Knott, founder of Bretz Nightclub, at sea.

Greg Knott, founder of Bretz Nightclub, at sea.

Knott’s influence

Bretz isn’t a story without talking about its founder and original owner, Greg Knott. Knott, who passed away in 2010, sold Bretz to current owner Michelle Woda shortly after marking the bar’s 20th anniversary in 2007.

“Greg thought the gay community deserved a nicer place,” said Steve Witker, a 20-year employee of Bretz. “His place was built from the ground up to serve the gay community. His view was that it wasn’t just a bar— it was a community resource.”

“One of the things I remember is having Easter and Thanksgiving there,” said Witker, who first came out and walked into Bretz for the first time in 1992. “It was the family we chose. He would have a ham, a turkey with all the trimmings for people who couldn’t go home to be with their family, because of acceptance.”

Rick Cornett was at Bretz the night of April 1, 1987. There were tuxedos, ice sculptures, flowers and waiters.

First Miss Bretz  Patricia Holt,1988

First Miss Bretz Patricia Holt,1988

OK2BGAY

“Greg always did things in a formal way,” said Cornett, who founded the LGBT Historical Archives of Toledo. “He went all out for the grand opening. It was an exciting night. Toledo had never had or seen a bar quite like that. It was modern and contemporary, it had a great sound and lighting system. It was just clean and classy — a lot of glass and mirrors and chrome.”

Knott, a proud gay man who had a personalized license plate reading “OK2BGAY” — threw anniversary parties every April 1, Cornett recalled.

“He cared a lot about the bar, the customers and the community at large,” he said. “That was one of the things that led to Bretz’s longevity. He devoted everything he had to the bar.”

Into the future

With Knott now gone, Cornett said Bretz’s importance is firmly entrenched in the young LGBT community.

“Bretz has always been a magnet that attracts the youth to the gay community,” he said. “There’s always an influx of new people coming out, every year, every spring, every summer. That’s where young gay people first hear about: Bretz, Bretz, Bretz.”

Barb Best, who has worked in various roles at the club for 10 years, said Bretz has been able to maintain its unique identity over the course of its three decades.

“It’s something completely different in Toledo,” she said. “There’s not really any other place that does our format of music, with the drag shows. We have some customers who have really been coming in since the day we opened in 1987, even though they’re in their 50s and 60s now, they still come out to support us weekly and monthly.”

The 30th anniversary party is 7pm-2:30am on Saturday, April 1.

Bretz Nightclub 2012 Adams St.
419-243-1900 | facebook.com/bretz.bar