Arts & Culture News

The Round Up Saloon Abruptly Closes Red Lounge, Leaving Queens Without Gigs

Drag queen Bleach says the sudden closing of The Round Up will result in a massive loss of livelihood for performers.
Drag queen Bleach says the sudden closing of The Round Up will result in a massive loss of livelihood for performers. Dennis Jansen
When the pandemic required LGBTQ+ bars closed, drag performers were forced to get creative, pivoting to online performances. As venues began to reopen, The Round Up Saloon and Dance Hall converted its game room into The Red Lounge, a drag performance area complete with seats and a stage last October. The Red Lounge quickly became home to resident queens Daphne Rio and Raquel Blake and a hot spot for queens all over the country.

Despite the room's popularity, The Round Up made an abrupt decision to close The Red Lounge last Wednesday without giving notice to performers scheduled for upcoming shows. The decision has resulted in a loss of income for the queens, many of whom had been booked months in advance.

According to Rio, she and the other queens had a meeting with The Round Up management team three weeks before The Red Lounge's closing to discuss bringing the game room back. They were allegedly told that it would not affect their show schedules.

“Upper management told us the owners wanted to bring pool tables back in the room,” Rio says. "We discussed a plan [on] how to set it up, cover them and put stools around them and use them as tables and seating. The Red Lounge shows were to stay.”

The Round Up management would later go back on their word, the performers say, informing queens barely 48 hours before their time slots that they would all be canceled. According to Bleach, who was a guest performer of The Red Lounge, a queen from out of state was set to board a flight, which she had paid for out of pocket.

Representatives of The Round Up Saloon and Dance Hall did not return our request for comment.

“I feel sick knowing that there are grown adults in our community that I worked alongside [who] have so much hate towards us that they did everything in their power to remove a safe space for patrons and entertainers." – Raquel Blake

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Some of the queens believe The Red Lounge's closure was to appease "hypermasculine" patrons.

“There was not a lot of explanation provided,” Bleach says. “The show was successful and always had a fabulous crowd when I was there. ... I feel disgusted by the owners of The Round Up Saloon. They’ve yet to make a statement or even speak to the entertainers directly. They yanked their livelihoods out from under them without any warning and have shown zero remorse or concern about the queens who have done so much for them. It’s despicable and, point blank, not OK.”

Several local drag performers and members of the local LGBTQ+ community have spoken out in support of Rio, Bleach and Blake and have vowed to boycott The Round Up. Although she says she's still hurt by the venue's decision, Blake says she has received an outpouring of messages in support of her and the other Red Lounge queens.

Those who are looking for a drag show can still find one at bars surrounding The Red Room, including The Rose Room at Station 4, JR’s Bar and Grill, Roy G’s and Cedar Springs Tap House.

“I’m extremely hurt,” Blake says. “I feel sick knowing that there are grown adults in our community that I worked alongside [who] have so much hate towards us that they did everything in their power to remove a safe space for patrons and entertainers. It’s funny to me because when they have fundraisers, who are the first people they call? Drag queens. To the bartenders and especially our manager who have fought for us, thank you.”
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Alex Gonzalez has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2018. He is a Dallas native whose work has appeared in Local Profile, MTV News and the Austin American-Statesman. He has eclectic taste in music and enjoys writing about art, food and culture.
Contact: Alex Gonzalez