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.

Mya McKenzie.

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

artform.

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.

Brunch noms.

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.

Bevvy burger; photo by Jeff Rawles.

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,”

she says.

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

arms.

“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

extensive show.

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.


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