“Tribe was an idea whose time had come,” says bartender Loy Carney of his first days with the bar before it opened a decade ago. “Before Tribe opened, every gay bar in town was a cave that you scurried into and you scurried out of.”

This May, Tribe, the bar that changed the face of Nashville’s gay nightlife, turns 10 years old, and owners Keith Blaydes, David Taylor, Todd Roman, and Joey Brown are excited about its anniversary while they reflect on its beginnings.

“In the beginning, it was just David and me,” Blaydes says. “We both had backgrounds in the corporate world, none in the bar business. Since getting a loan from a bank wasn't an option, it was obvious to us both, that to create a place that we would be proud of, we would both have to risk our retirement funds and even our homes for the startup venture.”

“Prior to opening Tribe, we visited all existing community bars in Nashville,” says Taylor. “We wanted to offer something new.  If an existing bar already served a need, then we would look elsewhere, we didn't want to compete. We also traveled to many cities to see what we liked and what was working well there.”

“We wanted a clean, comfortable, ‘everyone friendly’ atmosphere,” Blaydes explains further. “We also wanted to be involved in our community, through fundraising efforts with HRC, TEP, Nashville Pride, volunteer sports teams, and more.”

Tribe created its “everyone friendly” atmosphere by opening itself up to the GLBT community and beyond with 70 feet of uncovered glass store front on one of Nashville’s major streets.

“We are very proud of the fact that Tribe always has a nice mix of people,” Roman says, piping in on the conversation, “predominantly from the GLBT community, but also a few from the fun, hip straight crowd.”

It is that mixed crowd he, Blaydes, Taylor, and Brown hope enjoy the bar’s birthday celebration most.

“On Wednesday, May 9, we’ll have the Wednesday ‘Hump Day’ Reunion Party,” Brown says. “Well drinks & Smirnoff flavors will be $1 from 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 11, special guest star Hedda Lettuce, the queen of green, will perform her cabaret show.  And Sunday, May 13, the Dickson Chicks will perform their outrageous comedy show during Sunday Showtunes.” He also explains that more events will be added as the birthday weekend approaches.

Roman was a critical part of the Tribe team from the start, starting as the Bar Manager.  Over time Blaydes and Taylor got to know Roman’s close friend Joey Brown and in 2004 the four of them built PLAY Dance Bar.

“A couple of years ago, Todd and Joey became part-owners of Tribe,” Blaydes says, “and the four of us work closely to keep Tribe and PLAY current and continue to offer the best product to our customers.”

“We are active owners,” Brown says. “We all are in the businesses each day.  Some work more during the day, others at night. We listen to our employees, who are the direct link to the customer. We regularly say to the staff that we are in the business of selling ‘fun’.”

“Some may come in for a drink, others for dinner, but ‘fun’ is our key product,” Taylor adds. “We really appreciate our team of employees. Our team is more like a family, we regularly have employee parties and wind up each year with a large holiday party. We greatly appreciate each and every customer that comes through the door. It is great to see customers who have been here for 10 years, as well as the many new faces each week.” 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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