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Nobody’s Darling, A Black Woman-Owned, Queer Cocktail Bar, Opens In Andersonville

The name of the bar, 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., is inspired by an Alice Walker poem, "Be Nobody's Darling," and ode to outsiders and outcasts. Its opening comes as queer bars catering to women vanish across the country.

Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle laugh while posing for a portrait at Nobody's Darling, an elevated cocktail bar at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., in Andersonville on June 30, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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ANDERSONVILLE — When Andersonville’s Joie De Vine closed during the pandemic, Chicago lost one of its only lesbian bars.

But the new business that’s taken over the space is ensuring Andersonville still will be home to a queer-owned, LGBTQ-friendly hangout especially for women.

Nobody’s Darling opened at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave. in late May. The Black and queer-owned bar is led by Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes, who opened Nobody’s Darling to provide a service quickly diminishing across the country: a safe space for LGBTQ people that focuses on queer women.

Nobody’s Darling is the second Black-owned LGBTQ bar in Chicago alongside stalwart Jeffery Pub in South Shore, and is among the only nightlife spots in the city for queer women.

“We’re losing spaces that are women-focused in our community,” Riddle said. “That’s very important to me.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle pose for a portrait at Nobody’s Darling, an elevated cocktail bar at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., in Andersonville on June 30, 2021.

Riddle and Barnes met about 10 years ago while volunteering at the Center on Halsted. Riddle organizes pop-up events and parties that catered to queer women and Barnes is a business attorney.

After hosting events at other bars, Riddle began thinking about getting into the ownership side of the business. The two hung out at Joie De Vine, a neighborhood favorite, lesbian-owned wine bar, and even talked to the owners about buying the place.

Joie De Vine closed for the pandemic and did not reopen. When Riddle and Barnes heard the news, they decided it was time to act on their previous designs and open their own place.

Nobody’s Darling serves classic and newly created cocktails. It sources as many Black and queer-owned spirits as possible, including the Black and locally-owned Playpen Vodka.

The bar opened just before Pride Month, a coincidence of timing that may have boosted the new business. A Pride event last weekend at Nobody’s Darling was well attended, they said.

The Andersonville paintbrush Pride display house is also on the same block, and groups have come to the residential block to visit both establishments, both the homeowners and bar owners said.

“Andersonville has been great,” Riddle said. “People come in and it feels like home. Any one who feels like an outsider can come here and feel comfortable.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The interior of Nobody’s Darling, an elevated cocktail bar at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave. The chandeliers were salvaged from the shuttered downtown restaurant Lawry’s.

Lesbian bars and Black-owned LGBTQ bars have been closing throughout the U.S. for years. Nobody’s Darling does not bill itself as a lesbian bar, however, so as not to exclude any queer groups seeking a safe space, the owners said.

“That feels limiting,” Barnes said of being labeled a lesbian bar. “What we wanted to do was keep the space queer-owned, keep it a queer space and a place focused on women but definitely welcoming to everyone.”

The name “Nobody’s Darling” comes from the Alice Walker poem “Be Nobody’s Darling,” an ode to outsiders and “outcasts.”

“I took a step back and said, what do we want to accomplish?” Barnes said. “To be a woman, doing something bold? I thought of this poem.”

Nobody’s Darling, 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

For more information on the business, click here.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The words of Alice Walker’s “Be Nobody’s Darling” poem is written on the wall at Nobody’s Darling, an elevated cocktail bar at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., in Andersonville on June 30, 2021.

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