Lynn Katoa (left) and Sean Rawlings (right)

Once a contradiction, gay sports bars are opening across the country. Traditional gay meccas such as New York and L.A. are seeing the concept explode, with gay sports waterholes–Boxers, Gym, Hi-Tops–becoming some of the most popular spots in town.

Gay sports fans do exist, and we enjoy libations and conversation just like everybody else! (As well as drag shows, pop classics, and other gay pastimes.)

As lifelong sports fans, Lynn Katoa and Sean Rawlings have always known that to be true, despite the misplaced stereotypes. That’s why when the two friends had an opportunity to open a gay sports bar in their hometown, Salt Lake City, they hurtled towards the opportunity.

“When we first opened, the mentality was ‘gays don’t play sports,'” said Sean.

They’ve certainly proved the doubters wrong! Open since last August, The Locker Room hosts an event nearly every night on the week, including NFL viewing parties and Drag Karaoke. There is often live music on Fridays, and on Saturday, all of the girls light up their grills for Tailgate Drag Brunch.

Lynn says The Locker Room fills a needed void in Utah’s capital city.

“That was a huge, huge comment we heard from people when we first opened. ‘Gay don’t watch sports. Why would you want to turn this into a gay establishment?’ “It’s because we wanted to create a space where everybody felt safe coming into,” he said.

Believe it or not, Salt Lake City is one of the gayest cities in the U.S., with 4.7% of residents identifying as LGBTQ+ (higher than L.A.). It is a scenic, liberal oasis in a deep red part of the country.

But like many cities, SLC’s gay scene is shrinking. There were once close to a dozen gay bars; and now, there are less than a handful.

The dwindling number of queer spaces means there are a lot of people looking for a safe place to hang. Yes, The Locker Room is technically a gay bar. But more than anything, Lynn and Sean want TLR to be a place where people of all stripes can feel comfortable hanging out IRL.

“We want to bring the true meaning to what being inclusive is all about. We want to hit every color on that gay flag, and genuinely mean it,” said Lynn.

With the NBA and NHL playoffs heating up, Queerty recently chatted with Lynn and Sean about their special creation…and who’s better at beer pong. Here’s what they had to say!

QUEERTY: We hear so much about the demise of the gay bar. Why open one now?

SEAN RAWLINGS: Well, Utah is a very conservative state, but Salt Lake City is one of the most progressive cities in the United States. So the idea for us to open not only a bar, but a gay bar, was…I don’t know if it was unhinged, but there was a need for it.

LYNN KATOA: There was definitely a need for it, especially because back in the late 90s and early 2000s, there were about 10 or 11 gay bars here in Salt Lake City. Then I moved away in 2005, came back in 2019, and there were only like four. Now there’s three. It was just one of those things we were really passionate about. We worked at another gay club at opened a little over a year ago. Now, the stars were just aligning to start our own thing, so why not a gay sports bar? We’re both athletes!

You’ve said in past interviews that you want to be a destination for people who aren’t necessarily looking for nightlife. Can you tell us more?

LYNN: Well, some of us still like to go to the nightlife!… But we thought it would give the nightlife a little change here in Salt Lake City, besides that hardcore, thumping nightlife. Somewhere you can just sit, chill and relax and watch a game.

What’s one stereotype about gay sports fans you’d like to dispel?

SEAN: First of all, people don’t believe that either one of us plays sports! ” They’re like, “Wow, you did?'” Why is that so hard to believe?

LYNN: I play volleyball competitively. I played in NAVGA, and I’ve played since the year 2000. I’ve traveled all around the country, I went and played in the Gay Games in Paris in 2018. We ended up winning the gold medal there, and then in Rome the following year. It’s something I’m very, very passionate about. I’ve always been an athlete growing up my whole life.

SEAN:  I play baseball. Love baseball since before I could work–I was dragging a bat around. That’s how it was for me. My sexuality shouldn’t define my athleticism, nor did it. But we saw a lot of pushback when we opened.

LYNN: But we’ve also changed a lot of people’s minds!

What’s the most popular cocktail at your bar?

SEAN: A shot of tequila!

LYNN: A shot of tequila, and all of the Tito’s and soda!

What are the gays eating in Salt Lake City?

SEAN: Our wings! They’re second to none.

What sport is the most popular?

SEAN: Soccer… They just show up, and they drink!

I saw you on Instagram that you host beer pong tournaments. Who’s better?

SEAN: I am too unhinged to not be good at it!

LYNN: Well, we’re both very competitive, so, I think after this we’re gonna have to have a little one-on-one.

SEAN: You’d be surprised how many frat boys decide to come in. I’m like, “Am I about to fall in love again?”

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