Mable Peabody’s Beauty Parlor and Chainsaw Repair, Denton’s only LGBTQ+ bar, shuttered its doors and windows after a final night of drinks and music Sept. 4.
The bar owners made no official announcement before closing. Rumors that the small bar with a big personality would cease operations appeared on Mable Peabody’s Facebook page. Owner Kelly Sanders could not be reached for comment.
The bar first opened in 1979 and served as a gathering place for Denton’s LGBT community. To many, it was more than a watering hole or weekend dive. It was a place where they could relax and be themselves. That atmosphere of openness and acceptance survived over three decades of continuous service, even when arson destroyed the original location in 2007 and forced Mable Peabody’s to relocate.
Darwin Price, a Denton local and Mable Peabody’s regular, still remembers his first visit.
“I was young, barely legal, and completely in awe. I grew up in Keller, which is a very cookie-cutter, straight-laced kind of town,” Price says. “Mable's was the first place I stepped foot in that I didn't feel like I had to pretend. I could just be.”
The bar drew patrons from across DFW on reputation and word of mouth alone.
“It was deliberately and ostentatiously queer,” says Tyler Murphy, a freelance journalist in Denton. “I suppose that should be obvious for a gay bar, but I've been to a couple of joints that are more low key about it to avoid alienating customers or harassment. If you walked into Mable's, you could tell right away who this space was intended for.”
One weekly event stands out more than any other: Glitterbomb. Advertised as “Denton’s Weekly Queer Variety Show,” it packed Mable Peabody's benches and tables every Thursday by spotlighting burlesque shows, drag shows, comedians, singers and more.
“[There was] so much talent packed into one evening and so many people getting to express themselves in such a beautiful way,” says Traci Batson, another Denton resident and frequent patron. “I always felt really lucky to be able to make it out there on those nights.”
Mable Peabody’s once hosted a multiple sclerosis awareness event in Batson’s honor, and feminine hygiene products were also collected to donate to Denton’s homeless women. Batson says she had never experienced such a sense of community at a bar.
The timeline of Mable Peabody’s is a thickly woven tapestry of countless colorful memories like these, but for some patrons, it's the simpler, more everyday moments they recall most vividly.
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“I was bartending, and there was a huge tornado warning. It was me at work and three of my most loyal regulars,” says Oliver Lacosta, who worked at the bar in 2011. “We took turns playing songs on the jukebox, and I remember thinking there was no place I'd rather be. And I'm terrified of tornadoes!”
Dustin Dent, another former bartender, laughed when speaking about how the dust at the bar was always glitter.
“You'd go to one of the sofas that looked like it had been there for 100 years, and when you sat down, a poof of tinsel would plume instead of dust,” he said.
Although the stage lights are dark and cold, the seats and glasses empty, the legacy of Mable Peabody’s lives on in the lives of those it touched. Regulars remember not only “the good booze, but the good people,” who offered acceptance and friendship to anyone who walked through the front door.