Longtime DMV residents Brandon Burke and Shaun Mykals were attracted to the Black and queer history of D.C.’s U Street corridor, and realized the investment potential in adding to the booming artistic and nightlife landscape and legacy. That’s why Burke and Mykals created Thurst Lounge, the only Black-owned LGBTQIA+ lounge in D.C.
Located at 2204 14th St NW, Thrust Lounge is scheduled to open on Dec. 2.
Nightlife Experience and Community Awareness
Originally from Albany, New York, Mykals relocated to the D.C. area after graduating college. Even before coming to the District, Mykals was a frequent partygoer, and continued that trend once checking out D.C.’s nightlife.
“I experienced it at a time where I could be a part of Black LGBTQIA+ audiences, there’s not a lot of spaces that exist like that now,” Mykals told The Informer.
Burke, a Baltimore native, currently resides in the District and, like Mykals, spent a lot of time partying throughout the nation’s capital.
“I’ve been a part of the D.C. nightlife since 2002 and it eventually led me to meet and become friends with Shaun, and then into creating [the event] ‘Thursday Bliss.’”
For Burke and Mykals, Thursday Bliss, an open mic experience that lasted 12 years, was a propellant for their future endeavor: Thurst Lounge. They shared Thursday Bliss was an introductory lesson in event planning and audience development.
Putting on their event didn’t come without difficulties, such as continuously finding spaces to host and that were welcoming to LGBTQIA crowds, the entrepreneurs explained. With having to regularly relocate the event– from the lower level of the former Bohemian Cavern on U Street, to different clubs in the K Street area– they decided that creating their own space might be a better idea.
Thurst Lounge CEOs Shaun Mykals and Brandon Burke (Courtesy of Sam Gross Studios)
Black Investment Into LGBTQIA Spaces
Mykals explained that he and Burke realized that there was an overall need for a Black LGBTQIA space.
“Not just a place to party but also a place of pride,” he explained. “I’m a musician, so that knowledge paired with my experience with Bliss, helped me to understand the importance of live music, the stage, and paying homage to different iconic figures in the Black gay experience.”
Keeping to tradition, the duo expressed plans to include open mic nights at their lounge, but also expressed incorporating partnerships with various community-based LGBTQIA+ organizations and speakers, such as Smyle and Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance.
Incorporating LGBTQIA pride and education in the lounge was a must.
“Making the space into a home away from home for the people of our community,” was extremely important, Burke told The Informer.
Dining Experience, Community Support, and Safety
Along with the inclusive and pride-filled atmosphere, guests should expect “small servings and appetizers like wings and seafood from Sakerum’s kitchen, with a focus on specialty cocktail drinks like Purple Hays,” said Mykals.
The CEOs also shared their interest in utilizing their space for local talent to perform.
The duo also emphasized their dedication to hiring queer-friendly staff, including security, to do their best to protect and support their clientele.
As the LGBTQIA lounge is the first since the closing of Bachelor’s Mill in 2021, Burke and Mykals will have some pretty big shoes to fill. But with their long history in the community, the entrepreneurs look forward to the future.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.