Eat, drink, and be Mary at a sports bar
By Timothy Rawles, March 2020 Issue.
Photos by Silas Gutierrez
What is it about
drag brunch that makes people so happy?
It might be that it’s the weekend, or maybe
it’s the guilt-free indulgence of day drinking, or maybe seeing performers
dressed as exaggerated women lip-syncing to pop hits and randy hip-hop
lyrics. Or could it be the food?
Whatever it is, on the third Saturday of
every month along Seventh Street in Phoenix, a crowd can be seen forming at the
entrance to Bevvy Uptown, a swanky gastropub with a giant central bar, numerous
flatscreen televisions; some playing meme-inspired video clips and others the
latest sports broadcasts.
It’s not a gay bar, so it doesn’t seem like
the typical place to have a drag brunch, or even a drag queen let alone three,
but the affair sells out almost every time.
Bevvy Uptown sits on the fringe of the
Phoenix LGBTQ landscape, “Bevvy doesn’t necessarily identify itself as a
straight or a gay bar,” says General Manager Liza Loewenhagen, who also works
behind the bar during drag brunch, her concentration focused on making
drinks while servers bombard her with constant orders.
“We are an altogether friendly, upscale
neighborhood sports bar with many offerings — lunch, brunch, happy hour,
dinner, late night,” she says.
Drag brunch has become more and more
popular over the past few years. Thanks to RuPaul and celebrity drag queens the
straight public has sort of embraced brunch as a humorous threshold to the
In some ways the straight crowd may
appreciate the raw talent and craftsmanship that goes into each performance
more than fellow queens who may look at it more critically.
As for Bevvy
Uptown, where female servers and hostesses dress in black belly shirts and
short shorts, the brand seems more focused on appealing to the straight male
crowd, but Loewenhagen says the regulars are loving it and it has grown in
success every month.
“We have not experienced any backlash — and
in fact, have had so many positive reviews that we changed our initial plan of
a quarterly drag show to a monthly one,” she explains.
Another demographic outside the LGBTQ
community are straight women who appear to love drag brunches or just drag
shows in general. Bachelorette parties or birthday celebrations are popular
events that also add to the success of drag entertainment.
Drag brunches are the perfect places to
induct them into the theatrics of it all, plus it happens during broad daylight
and bigger tables can be reserved for parties larger than four. In these times
of Insta-ready social media scrapbooking, drag is the perfect photo op.
You will probably see Mya McKenzie
hashtagged in a lot of those photos. She’s the drag queen who headlines the
program and has been since its debut just over a year ago. Her opening act
begins with an energetic pep talk before going right into her routine which
varies from show to show.
Her costumes are gorgeous and as she works
the room gathering dollar bills from the hands of patrons, she gets a feel for
the crowd. During the show I saw, she elicited gasps from brunchers as she
showed off her feminine curves.
McKenzie is perfectly happy playing
to her straight fans at Bevvy. She knows that the venue is different, and
that’s fine by her.
“Even though it’s not a gay bar the staff
and patrons there are absolutely amazing. So very friendly and accommodating,”
But there is also another aspect that Bevvy
patrons may not be aware of —
some of McKenzie’s co-stars are trans. Recently
there has been some criticism about trans women doing drag, especially when it
comes to RuPaul’s Drag Race. But at Bevvy they are welcomed with open
“They do identify as female,” says
McKenzie. “I love my trans brothers and sisters. We have a new cast
every month and that includes my trans brothers as well.”
On the day I went, Nikki Knowles and Naomi
St. James, both trans women, stunned the crowd with their revealing costumes.
There was no clear demographic of straight or gay patrons at a glance, but that
didn’t matter; everyone was having a great time.
The other part of drag brunch is the food,
and Bevvy has made a menu of pretty tasty items. From breakfast dishes that
range from chilaquiles to churro waffles to avocado toast, the list is pretty
extensive. I had the Brunch Burger and a Diet Coke. But the cocktail menu is
filled with specialty drinks, or if you prefer the traditional route a mimosa
will set you back $8 a flute.
Bevvy Uptown isn’t a very big place and the “stage” is placed up toward
the entrance which makes it hard for people sitting in the back booths or
T-tops to see. It doesn’t appear to have been built as a showplace, but
the entertainers stroll around the room and interact with the guests during the
Since this isn’t a designated gay bar or
nightclub, the patrons come from all walks of life. I noticed representation
from the gay community and its allies. There was no disrespect except from the
queens who let adults-only zingers fly much to the delight of the attendees who
seemed to want more.
With all of its success, Bevvy is sticking
to its schedule, but have added another drag entertainment tradition.
“As of now, we do not intend on adding more
shows a month,” says Loewenhagen, who personally looks forward to it.
“However, following the success of our Drag Brunch we have added Drag Bingo to
our list of monthly events.”
As for McKenzie, who will also host bingo,
these events are more about fun than where they’re held.
“The staff and management of the bevvy are
so welcoming to all the performers and patrons,” she says. ”When you are
comfortable and safe at an establishment, you can easily put on a great show.”
Bevvy Drag Brunch happens every third Saturday of the month at Bevvy Uptown, 5600 North Seventh St. #100, in Phoenix. bevvyuptown.com.