SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Members of the LGBTQ community on the Central Coast are speaking out on the lack of local places for them to socialize and commune.
“It just kind of hurts to have nothing where you're from to go to and have a place within your vicinity where you can be who you are,” said Santa Maria Resident and Gay-Straight Alliance member Rory Uribe.
Rory Uribe was ecstatic when she turn 21.
She had plans to go to a gay bar where she could openly hang out with others just like her.
But it didn’t take long for her to find out no such place exists on the Central Coast.
“Traditionally the population is a little more conservative,” said Lompoc Pride Alliance member Wally Waldau.
Waldau says the LGBTQ Community is too small in Lompoc and Santa Maria to dedicated bars or coffee shops just to them.
“It has to do with the lack of openness within our community and a lot of people don't come out to queer events,” said SLOQueerdos co-owner Daniel Gomez.
Gomez co- started SLOQueerdos pop up venues to create a space for the LGBTQ community to socialize on the Central Coast. He said he moved to the Central Coast and was shocked that a common space for his community to hang out didn’t exist.
“We do drag shows and parties where we all get together and dance and have a good time,” said Gomez.
Gomez noted that some venue owners refuse to let them rent their space for gatherings.
“Some people get it, but other people don't want to make their venues seem like a gay bar or usually what they say is it excludes their straight customers. Which is hard for us because every night is straight night,” said Gomez.
Though there are pop up's like Saturday breakfast at Lompoc's South Side coffee shop,
no permanent LGBTQ establishments exist between Santa Barbara and Morro Bay.
“It would just be nice for the community, for all of us in the LGBTQ, to have somewhere to go and socialize and have friends,” said Uribe.
Waldau says he thinks more local places to congregate would help others be more accepting.
“I think there would be less open hostility, but I think the hostility is generally quiet, and behind closed doors” said Waldau.
Santa Maria now holds an annual PRIDE fair, but that is just a yearly event.
“I hope that we can create that culture and build that community and open something eventually,” said Gomez.
Not having a permanent place makes some in the LGBTQ community feel left out.
“Sometimes we are turned away for just supporting and it feels dehumanizing almost,” said Uribe.