Houston voters cast ballots at the bar

Buddy’s, a gay bar and restaurant in Houston’s LGBTQ-friendly Montrose neighborhood, became a polling place on election day with 14 booths. By the time the polls closed, 154 people had voted at the bar, and dozens were still sipping cocktails outside, where the bass was thumping as speakers blasted “We Are Family.”

“We call it voting in the front, party in the back,” owner Christopher Barry said as he stood on the back patio. Patrons sipped drinks at socially distanced tables as workers set up a stage for a DJ set to start once the polls closed.

Some patrons said they were scared about what would happen election night. Days earlier, they said, a Trump supporter had to be escorted from the bar after antagonizing regulars. Earlier Tuesday, a pickup truck with a Trump flag swerved at a drag queen walking across the street.


Some patrons, who normally walked to gay bars in the neighborhood, drove instead. Bartenders warned them to be safe.

“All we can do is provide a safe space, civility and humanity regardless of the results,” said Barry, who survived COVID-19 along with several of his staffers who contracted the virus. The restaurant was temporarily shut down this summer.

Massage therapist Joseph Chabot, 36, said he voted at the bar because he was scared to approach his usual polling place in the neighborhood, which had become the scene of dueling Biden and Trump protests Tuesday.

“You don’t want to go to [that] place, you’ll be accosted,” he said, referring to his normal polling place. His friend Craig Sanford, 52, a store manager, voted early for Joe Biden and joined the group at the bar Tuesday night, figuring there was safety in numbers.

“I wouldn’t come out here by myself. We had to look out for each other,” he said as they stood near the outdoor bar finishing beers and cinnamon-flavored shots. “There’s a lot of anxiety.”