For 36 years, The Capital Club has been a driving force behind Columbia’s LGBT community. Sandwiched between Menkoi’s Ramen House and Heathcliff’s Jewelers in the Vista, the unassuming members-only club not only touts itself as the oldest gay bar in Columbia, but steadily has grown its numbers over the years.
“We’ve tripled business in the last year and a half. Tripled,” said Garry Dollahite, vice president of the bar. After a long career in publishing, Dollahite wanted to do something different and approached the previous owner with an offer he did not refuse.
“The bar was wrapped in 35 year old carpet, so we redid that. We painted. We put in new carpet and new flooring. We’ve made a lot of changes,” said Dollahite.
What hasn’t changed is the bar’s loyal and steadfast happy hour constituents.
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“There are people in here regularly who’ve been coming here for 30 years plus,” said Dollahite. “My personal doctor is a member here, as well as very prominent attorneys, legislators, politicians; its a wide variety.
“We don’t classify ourselves as strictly a gay bar,” Dollahite added. “I don’t think you can be an exclusive gay bar anymore. You’ve got to be open to everybody. We’ve got straight couples, gay couples, transgenders ... we have a big wide variety of people that come in this bar.”
So what do The Capital Club members like to drink?
“If I had to choose what the favorite drink is I would have to say its vodka,” said Dollahite. “Any kind of vodka drink. People love to drink vodka.”
Dirty martinis are just one of the many ways the bar likes to use vodka. But more than anything, The Capital Club members just like to have a good time with adult libations. From red wine to fireball shots to bottles of beer (none on tap), the range of drinks is as varied as the members who patron the low key location.
Membership is reasonable at $35 for singles, $50 for couples, coming with lots of benefits.
“We have special events and if you’re a member you never pay to come through the door,” said Dollahite. “We have RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants perform from time to time and if they’re performing you may have to pay $20, but members pay nothing. We have lunches, barbecues, events going on throughout the year; there’s always something going on.”
And if that weren’t enough the bar is open seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“We’re open every holiday, every day of the year. We don’t close,” said Dollahite. “The deal is a lot of people don’t have family to go home to, so we provide a haven for people that don’t have a place to go. We have a big Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.
Dollahite said above all, they want The Capital Club to be a safe place for people.
“We’ve been here 36 years with no incidents and no trouble; however, we have to be realistic. With the Orlando massacre, it’s horrible and we have to address that. Can it happen here? It can. So we’re going to move our security level up a notch. My responsibility and this club’s responsibility and obligation is to provide a safe haven for people.”
The Capital Club
WHERE: 1002 Gervais St.
WHEN: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday; 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday
WORTH NOTING: Happy hour, 5-8 p.m. Karaoke on Tuesdays, shows on Friday and Saturday nights. Once a month there’s a Sunday drag brunch hosted by Patti O’Furniture that benefits a different charity.
INFO: (803) 256-6464; www.capitalclubsc.com/