Opinion & Editorial

Wayward Lamb closes doors, takes toll on UO students, community

Bethany Howe was third in line at the grand opening of The Wayward Lamb, the area’s newest gay bar in almost a decade. A PhD student at the University of Oregon, she recalls the Lamb’s first night in business back in August, 2015.
“From minute one, you just see all these people streaming in the door and all so incredibly happy to be there,” Howe said. “It was the one place that I could go and be myself and not worry about it.”
Rachel Elkins first visited the bar shortly after celebrating her 21st birthday. A junior studying cinema studies at the UO at the time, Elkins recalls her first impression of the Lamb.
“It was smaller than I thought it’d be, but in a good way I guess, Elkins said. “It was a communal space. It was small enough that you felt like you could chill and talk to people you don’t know.”
On Jan. 29, the news broke that The Wayward Lamb would be closing its doors for good on Saturday, Feb. 3. Owner Colin Graham released a statement on Facebook explaining the decision: “Three years ago, I set out to create a space dedicated to the queer community – somewhere safe, welcoming and inclusive,” Graham wrote. “I’ve decided that the time has come to end my journey.”
Graham has declined to speak with The Creswell Chronicle or any other news outlet. Two days after the first post, Graham posted a second statement elaborating on his decision: “Many factors come into play with owning and operating a small business, especially in Eugene,” Graham wrote. “As a father, it’s important that I set myself and my family (up) for success and the emotional, physical and mental strain caused by operating a small business takes its toll.”
Many were upset when they heard the news. Howe and Elkins both expressed worry and concern over the loss of this queer space in Eugene.
“It was about with the opening of the Lamb that I first really started considering and to accept that I was transgender,” Howe said. The Lamb gave me a chance to figure out who I was; with the Lamb closed, that chance is now closed off to a lot of people.”
“Where are people gonna go now?” Elkins said. “Especially young queer people coming to college and trying to find their place – where will they go?”
While other bars in the area, such as Cowfish, aim to be an open and inclusive space, there are no other venues in the area that are specifically aimed at the queer community, Howe explained.
“I think the Cowfish is known as a place where everyone is welcome, but The Wayward Lamb is a LGBTQ space where everyone is welcome,” Howe said. “I knew of one place that was dedicated to me, and that makes a difference, it really does.”
“Wayward offered something that I think a lot of other bars don’t,” Elkins said, “which is a queer and inclusive space. It was very specifically a queer space. Everyone was welcome, but it was first and foremost a space to hangout with your friends, be yourself, and be gay. It was really cool to have that,” Elkins said.
The last gay bar in Eugene – Neighbors – closed their doors in 2006. The area wouldn’t see another one for nine years until the opening of The Wayward Lamb. Graham wrote on Facebook that he is currently looking for an new owner of the venue, but whether the space will continue to operate as a gay bar is unknown.
“There had been no LGBTQ space for a decade in Eugene,” Howe said. “So the idea that it’s just gonna happen again is just historically inaccurate.”



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