Film/Television Editor, Copy Editor Devin D. O'Leary served as film/television editor at Weekly Alibi for 28 years. He wrote and produced four feature films here in New Mexico and has been the booker/host of Midnight Movie Madness screenings at Guild Cinema for 13 years.

Patrons return to The Soch Credit: Courtesy of Adam Baker

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The Albuquerque Social Club has been an icon of the local LGBTQ community for decades. But like a lot of businesses, the Social Club suffered deeply in the wake of COVID. Unable to be open during the initial quarantine, and with bills mounting, the Nob Hill-area club was forced to close its door in March of 2020. Unwilling to let the venerable venue disappear, the community it supported rallied around it, mounting a social media donation campaign and organizing a number of fundraising events (from car washes to flea markets). The efforts worked, and the Social Club was able to reopen to the public late this summer, after more than a year in the dark.

With guests moving through the doors, drinks flowing and live stage shows once again reappearing at “The Soch,” we took the opportunity to speak to the current board of directors president, Adam Baker, about what the beloved cultural institution has been through in the last couple of years.

The Paper.: What does the Albuquerque Social Club and its history mean to Albuquerque?

Adam Baker: The Albuquerque Social Club is very important to the LGBTQ community in Albuquerque and Central New Mexico. It is situated a few blocks from Morningside Park in Nob Hill, which is where in 1977 the city’s first Pride Parade was held and where the community continues to hold rallies and vigils during Pride Week and throughout the year. The area has such significance to the LGBTQ community that the city commemorated it with rainbow crosswalks for Pride 2019.

What originally started as a private bar in the late ’70s (known then as Highlander Bar) evolved into the Albuquerque Social Club, known by its current name since becoming a 501(c)(7) organization in 1983. As a result I’m pretty sure the Albuquerque Social Club is the Southwest’s oldest gay bar.

The Albuquerque Social Club spent much of its early days as a resource for the community during the AIDS crisis. Members affected by the crisis would hold services, remembrances and drag shows as fundraisers there. It was a refuge for members of the community tossed aside by society and a place to find community and belonging.

Today, our services continue supporting the wide LGBTQ community that previous generations fought so hard to make space for. We offer viewings of TV shows, dance parties of various themes, drag shows, pageants and community fundraisers. Because we are a social club and all our members are considered part owners of the club, we are one of the only LGBTQ spaces that has such a tight connection to its membership.

The exterior of the newly renovated Albuquerque Social Club

What changes were made to the venue during the shutdown?

The most obvious change to the club has been that our General Facilities Committee repainted the exterior of the building. On top of this new coat of paint we hope to add murals, lights and much more; it’s just a start. Beyond that, the changes have been relatively minor. Due to health concerns we have removed bar-side seating so that our bartenders are kept safer from a respiratory virus. Our lounge has new seating that we hope makes our members feel comfortable. Lastly, we have been working directly with our landlords to make improvements to the roof and heating and cooling systems.

Scarlett Dahl performs on the stage of “The Soch”

What has been the response from the public since the reopening?

As your readers may be aware, the Albuquerque Social Club was in danger of shutting its doors forever. Thanks to the hard work and determination of the previous board of directors, and more importantly the outpouring of support and generosity from our community, we were able to pay off old debts and reopen. From the bottom of all of our hearts, thank you so very much for helping make our dreams a reality!

The response from our community has been amazing and overwhelming and we, the current board, strive to continue on the work not only of those that helped us reopen the club but also the generations who came before us and allowed us to occupy this space so openly. We are deeply humbled by the well of support from our community and everything we are doing is in furtherance of the wishes of our community.