Joplin bars celebrate Pride month, welcome everyone year-round

JOPLIN, Mo.–In 1969 pride was a protest.  The Stonewall riots helped start the gay rights movement.  Now, it’s a time of celebration, when the world’s LGBTQ+ communities come together  to express their true self, while also paying respect to what happened at Stonewall. 

One Joplin bar that has been having a few Pride celebrations this month is Blackthorn Pizza & Pub.

“One of our Blackthorn logos we do in the rainbow colors. We have some shirts we do with the rainbow colors and stickers, and we just really try hard to make sure that everyone does feel like they belong whenever they come in here,” said Blackthorn owner Melanie Wamble. 

While bars like Blackthorn are using this month to celebrate pride, Wamble says being a safe space for the LGBTQ community is something they make sure to do year-round.

“We try to do drag shows and all kinds of LGBTQ  friendly events all year long,” Wamble said. “I think it is really important to have a safe place, you know, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for women, for people of color.”

Blackthorn isn’t the only space in Joplin that emphasizes themselves as a space anyone can feel comfortable going to.

Eric Meehl is the owner of the Locker Room in Joplin, one of the area’s newest bars that opened in May. Meehl says while gay people have always existed, they haven’t always been able to express their sexuality publicly.

“We have been here forever. It’s just that we’re now allowed to be ourselves in general public. If two same sex people want to hold hands..and walk down the street, they should not be shamed. They should be allowed the same rights, to go through the same…that everybody else has gone through,” Meehl said. 

The Locker Room’s name comes from the time spent in locker rooms in high school. It’s a space for anyone who felt out of place back then, or who still does.

“We all had bad experiences in high school. And whether it was growth spurts or not…everybody was trying to catch up or belt out of place. Now come back to the locker room and say, hey, life is just as bad as it was back then, but I can have fun and laugh about what happened back then.”

Meehl said the hope for the space, like many other gay friendly bars in the area, is to make anyone wanting to come in, feel comfortable doing so.