The Toasted Walnut, a lesbian bar in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood that was refuge to queer women for the past five years, will close for good, according to Billy Penn. Run by the former manager of Sisters — another lesbian bar that closed in Philly in 2013 — the Toasted Walnut was a staple for the lesbian community at its home on 13th and Walnut. The bar had been hibernating since November, but with additional financial pressure, it will no longer be able to reopen.
Toasted Walnut’s owner Denise Cohen tells Billy Penn that the pandemic made it especially challenging to keep the lights on, but that her own personal health problems have made it impossible. Cohen began going blind in her left eye in 2019 as a result of diabetes, then was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the end of 2020. Meanwhile, Cohen says her landlords wouldn’t meet at the negotiating table regarding the rent at the bar, which Cohen says costs $11,000 a month. With the additional costs for her healthcare, it would have been too much of a hardship to keep open. Cohen’s community has organized a GoFundMe to help pay for her healthcare.
In November of last year, the Lesbian Bar Project raised over $100,000 for the lesbian bars facing closure as a result of the pandemic. The project also aims to preserve the history of the lesbian bar community. As of the beginning of this year, there were an estimated fifteen lesbian bars left in the whole United States — now, with the Toasted Walnut closing, that number has shrunk to just fourteen.