- PHOTO PROVIDED
- The dance floor at ROAR nightclub.
On the bar scene, a mighty ROAR621 Culver Road | 585-434-1248
There’s a neon sign over the door at ROAR: “A DJ and a Drag Queen Walk Into a Bar.”
But this isn’t the set up for a joke. It’s the premise for Rochester’s reigning gay-owned nightclub, which scooped up five “Best of Rochester” awards.
Since opening in November 2019, ROAR has filled a gap in the LGBTQ+ community left by the closings of Tilt Nightclub, Muther’s, and Club GQ. It was while working in those venues that ROAR owners David Chappius (aka drag queen DeeDee DuBois) and Michael Ruger (aka DJ Mighty Mic) first met. (Chappius and Ruger are also “Best of Rochester” winners.)
After Tilt closed in 2018, the duo started a pop-up act called “DeeDee’s Night Out” which traveled to different regional locations.
“We weren’t ready to stop doing what we do,” Chappius said.
With the encouragement of their husbands, Ruger and Chappius found a space at 621 Culver Road, next to the former Sticky Lips BBQ, and opened a club while keeping their full-time day jobs. They managed to stay in business — and retained most of the original staff intact — through the pandemic lockdown.
Now, they’re back to full operation every Wednesday through Saturday.
“We like to have fun, and that’s what this place is,” Chappius said. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re community oriented, and everything we host or benefit fits the model of our business.”
Before ROAR, Chappius spent more than 20 years performing as a drag queen. By day, he works in finance for a construction company. His and Ruger’s past gigs at LGBTQ+ clubs factor heavily into the ROAR experience.
“Drag is a part of everything we do at ROAR, which really sets us apart from other nightclubs in the area right now,” Chappius said.
Wednesday is trivia night hosted by drag queen Samantha Vega, and Thursday is karaoke night hosted by drag queen Chaka. On the weekends, the chairs and tables are removed to make way for elaborate drag shows and late night dancing (a floor-to-ceiling dance pole is a go-to photo opp for many guests). Select Sundays feature a drag brunch, and there’s a monthly Bingo night. No matter the day, the crowd is always filled with familiar faces.
“So many of our guests have become regulars and extended family,” Chappius said. “People may also be surprised at our age range. We are 18-plus because we want transgender youth to have a safe place to be their authentic selves, but our average age is in the mid-30s.”
ROAR has a few plans for 2023, including booking national DJs, porn stars, drag queens, and go-go dancers for events as well as continuing to spotlight local talent.
“We’re here to be creative and have a good time,” Chappius said. “Not to do the same things that are already being done.” — LEAH STACY
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