With a new name and new management, Underground Chapel Hill “came out” as Chapel Hill’s only gay bar on Friday.
In June, Daniel Payne and his husband, Chris Payne, were looking for a place to go out and celebrate good news after a doctor’s appointment in Chapel Hill.
A Google search for “gay bar” led them to Chapel Hill Underground. The listing was wrong, because the basement of 157 E. Rosemary St. wasn’t a place that catered specifically to the LGBTQ community — yet.
The Paynes felt like that was something Chapel Hill needed, and they had experience managing bars, so they decided to purchase the bar.
After a month of ownership, the Paynes decided to announce Underground Chapel Hill’s status as the town’s premiere gay bar with an underwear dance party.
“Initially, we were told it would never survive here,” co-owner and bar manager Chris Payne said.
But despite the warning from the bar’s former manager, the Paynes said they found lots of support for an LGBTQ-focused establishment after talking to the locals, as well as to out-of-towners.
“There’s an entire community of people that travel from Wilmington to Raleigh to go to a good gay bar in Raleigh,” Chris Payne said. “It should benefit all of Chapel Hill to have people coming in just to be a part of the queer community here.”
The Paynes said while they describe their business as a gay bar and plan to host LGBTQ-focused events, the goal is to create an inclusive space for all sexualities.
“We’re open to everyone as long as they’re not mean or rude,” co-owner and general manager Daniel Payne said.
Linda’s Bar & Grill owner Christopher Carini said he looks forward to opportunities to collaborate with Underground Chapel Hill, but he said the bar should be careful about coming across as exclusive.
“I think Chapel Hill already has enough things that segregate and separate people,” Carini said. “I think posing yourself to be one thing or the other is not necessarily a good thing in this town.”
UNC sophomore Brady Gilliam said while Chapel Hill is generally inclusive, it will be beneficial to have some sort of LGBTQ nightlife.
“I think a lot of times queer people feel not necessarily unsafe, but just a little out of place in predominantly straight bars and clubs, because you can get weird looks,” Gilliam said. “I think it’ll be great.”