Iconic Hershee Bar, oldest lesbian bar in nation, will reopen in Norfolk

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 18:04:09-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Colorful Pride flags at the Five Points intersection in Norfolk are sure to catch your attention. They, in fact, are a glimpse of a long-awaited return.

"I never lost faith we would find a new bar," said former Hershee Bar co-owner Annette Stone.

In 1983, Stone and her business partner opened the Hershee Bar, a lesbian hangout on Sewells Point Road, where it stood for 35 years.

"It was a treasure to have," said Stone.

A no-judgment zone, a place all were welcome, and a safe space.

The Hershee Bar was, as she found out from historians, was the oldest lesbian bar in the world.

Fast forward to 2018 - all that's left where the bar once stood is rubble. It permanently closed in 2018 and was demolished by the city in 2019.

"I felt like I was watching my own funeral. It was the most devastating night of life," recalls Stone.

She now has to shield her face as she walked past the empty lot Thursday afternoon, a place she says was filled with so much love.

"My brain can't process it. My heart can't take it - all the love, all the memories and the fight to keep us open all those years," she said.

In February 2018, the City of Norfolk bought the land where the Hershee Bar sat for $1.5 million after the property owners offered to sell it so the area could be revitalized. Stone was just renting the building, and part of that deal including tearing down the building.

"It moved me in a way I will feel until the day I die," she said.

Patrons and supporters begged and pleaded with the city at many meetings, but the deal was done.

"It propelled me to do what I am doing now," she said.

The Five Points area of Norfolk is where Stone grew up. It is where she's embedded, and it's where she's going to make a triumphant return.

"I am gonna bust through this wall and make it all one space," she showed News 3 Thursday.

Stone has acquired multiple buildings on Sewell's Point with the help of an owner in New Jersey. The old Horse and Buggy tavern will likely be the new home to the Hershee Bar.

"I think it's just a few months away," said Stone.

Other buildings she is renting will likely include "a bodega, tap room and an antique shop," said Stone.

"I love this community. I want to see it thrive. We can all work together and make the best of it," she said.

Bringing new life to the lackluster buildings and reviving a legacy.

"We all deserve a safe space to go and be accepting," she said. "Walking into the Hershee Bar was like a giant hug, and I want to recreate that."

We talked to the City of Norfolk, who says they plan to build an Open Norfolk-style community park in the area. Construction will start this winter.