For the third time last night, supporters of the Hershee Bar attended and spoke during the Norfolk City Council’s open forum to try and convince the City Council to save the building.
The Hershee Bar is currently scheduled to close and be demolished in just over 90 days. The property on which the business sits was sold by its owners earlier this year to the City of Norfolk as part of a $1.5 million package of 17 plots in Norfolk’s Five Points neighborhood.
Patrons and other supporters of the 35-year-old LGBTQ landmark made their first appearance before Council on June 26 to make their case for saving the building. Since that first appearance, relations between Council and the bar’s supporters have become somewhat contentious.
Last night, LGBTQ ally and Navy veteran Melissa Frederick recounted her experience as an ODU student enrolled in Dr. Cathleen Rhodes’ Queer Studies course. During a walking tour of Norfolk’s lost LGBTQ landmarks last spring, she said, “I took away from the experience that the often-unseen core of communities which are places such as the such as the Hershee Bar are the very essence of what you want in cities–a place for everyone.”
In her address to Council, bar patron Juli Edwards-McDaniel said, “Some of you may be influenced in those decisions by your disagreement with how we live our lives. I challenge you to be better than that. We will keep showing up and will be there until the last brick falls.”
After public comments, Councilwoman Andria McClellan addressed the audience. “I believe we do need to help Hershee Bar find a new location, and I know that will make some of you unhappy because you want it to remain where it is,” she said. “I believe it’s a historic and relevant piece of Norfolk’s history, and while I prefer to see it there, I think the deal is already set in stone.”
“There have been some implications in some of the comments tonight that this Council is homophobic,” she continued. “And I want to tell you, you’re wrong.”
“What I’ve experienced in the last few years is that this is a very open and welcoming council. We want to do the right thing and want to work with you all.”
Watch the Norfolk City Council formal session video from last night below.