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LGBTQIA-Owned & Operated Businesses in Durham

Estimated Read Time:
3 min

Support these local LGBTQIA-owned businesses this month and the other eleven months of the year, too.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff on May 27, 2024

Designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, the original Pride flag incorporated eight different colors to represent eight different aspects of the queer community. While the colors of the flag changed over time to incorporate more groups and to recognize the contributions of LGBTQIA people of color, the meaning of the rainbow flag is the same — it's a symbol of diversity, identity and support for the LGBTQIA community. In Durham, we proudly wave and display our rainbow flags, cherish our queer community and support our queer-owned businesses.

Our LGBTQIA-owned and operated businesses contribute something magical to our city, and we are excited to follow the magic and support them in real, tangible ways this month — and the other eleven months of the year, too. From hand-crafted meads with seasonal fruits to hand-crafted bouquets, Durham's queer community does it all. With input from our Instagram followers, here's a list of some favorite local LGBTQIA-owned businesses in Durham for you to visit.

If you know of an awesome LGBTQIA-owned business that should be included, please email us at blog@discoverdurham.com.

Arcana Bar & Lounge

As the most recent addition to The Lesbian Bar Project's list of 32 Lesbian bars in the US, this underground bar in downtown Durham supports local artists and musicians. Join them for cocktails, live performances and frequent tarot readings. Not only do they offer delicious wines, craft beers and modern cocktails, but they highlight the arcana (mysteries) of herbalism with a drink menu that uses herbs and an extensive collection of liqueurs.

Augmentality Labs

Sling some spells or race on the tracks in VR at Augmentality Labs. This VR-focused arcade rents out stations to individuals looking to take their gaming to the next level. Welcoming gamers and non-gamers alike, Augmentality Labs is a unique experience you won't want to miss. If you're looking for a deal, get a Weekday Play Pass on Tuesdays or Wednesdays to reserve 2 hours of play for $40/station.


Auroraflow was founded by owners Castle Frame and Lauren McCullough to be an inclusive, safe space for the LGBTQIA and other marginalized communities to heal and relax. By making self-care and spa treatments like massage, facials, reiki and more approachable and accessible, the couple aims to help people in their communities live healthier, better lives.

Bathed in calm lighting, a massage room at Auroraflow gives off a pleasant and relaxing aura.

Auroraflow provides a safe, inclusive space for individuals to relax. Photo: Discover Durham

Beer Tooth Taproom

Named after a song by Shelby Merchant, The Beer Tooth Taproom is a newly opened taproom in South Durham. They hope to "convert everyday beer drinkers into well-informed enthusiastic beer consumers through education and sensory experiences." With 36 taps of rotating craft beverages, they have something to quench every adult's thirst.

Club ERA

Opening just in time for Pride month, Club ERA promises to be a safe space for members of the queer community to gather and have fun. Founded by Triangle Drag Queen Naomi Dix and housed in the basement of The Fruit, this club will host local artists, DJs, drag queens and more. They're kicking things off June 1st with a grand opening party full of dancing, DJs and so much more. Get tickets or run the risk of missing out.

Naomi Dix of House of Coxx stands by a chair in Club ERA

Join Naomi at Club ERA for the grand opening on June 1st. Photo: Discover Durham

GRUB Durham

Craving delicious, Southern-inspired food? Head to an old gas station turned hip Southern eatery on Chapel Hill St. for some grub. With plenty of outdoor seating and a menu full of delicious options, GRUB Durham aims to cultivate community through food. They also love parties — their space is the perfect place to host private events in Durham. GRUB's sister restaurants under the same ownership group include Pipers in the Park and Nosh. Having recently announced their moving to 717 Broad St., Nosh may have a new location, but they'll still be serving up the same great eclectic bites.

A breakfast biscuit is stacked high with fried chicken and toppings on a table at GRUB.

Grab a signature, delicious biscuit from GRUB. Photo: Discover Durham

Hex Neon

Women-owned and operated since 2020, Hex Neon creates custom, beautifully crafted neon signs for businesses and individuals all across the East Coast. With intentionality and respect for the craft, they "eat, sleep and breath REAL neon." Join co-owner and operator Danielle "DJ" James for Neon Date Night, a beginner class where you and your sweetie or best bud will create your own neon sign with DJ's help.

Indulge Catering, LLC

Executive Chef Queen-Precious Jewel and Sous Chef Jay from Indulge Catering, LLC are taking healthy meal-making to a whole new level with their passion for cooking, love for good food and signature Indulgent Essential Spices. Together, as business partners and a married couple, they have built a highly sought-after catering business, named 2023 Best of Durham Full Service Catering by Durham Magazine, by creating healthy and flavorful dishes – all while using fresh ingredients from local vendors.

Lutra Bakery & Cafe

As chef Chris McLaurin prepares to open a brick-and-mortar café, he's popping up twice a week with incredible sweet and savory buns, chocolate chip cookies and soft pretzels. Order ahead for pickup Sundays at Queeny's or Fridays at Cocoa Cinnamon on Hillsborough Road. If you opt to roll the dice and stop by for an in-person order, arrive early as the pop-ups often sell out.

Night School Bar

Founded on the belief that many people wish to study beyond traditional school years, Night School Bar offers college-level classes on a sliding scale taught by expert instructors. Sign up for classes across a range of subjects, or just stop by for a drink. Make sure you enter through the back if classes are in session.

Observable Universe

Observable Universe (OU) arrived quietly among a community of DIY art spaces just off North Roxboro in November 2021 when community organizer Heather Anne began cultivating a space for creatives and caregivers to explore the healing modalities of artistic practice in a safe, accessible environment. The storage-unit-turned-community-art-space hosts weekly Community Acupuncture Clinics, Queer Healing Circles, textile and printmaking workshops, monthly community collage nights and is available to rent for everything from rehearsals to rituals.

Art workshop at Observable Universe in Durham, NC

Observable Universe. Photo: Observable Universe / Discover Durham

perfect lovers

Another relative newcomer to the growing DIY arts community along North Roxboro, perfect lovers is equal parts coffee shop, gallery and community event space. Check out the bright, intimate space for a quick beverage or follow the Instagram account to learn about upcoming events.

The Pickleback 2

For more than ten years, The Pickleback 2 has been the life of the party and a place to chill with friends, depending on your mood. Either way, Renee Batchelor ensures it's welcoming, inclusive and fun for all. Dance until the wee hours on the patio on DJ nights, enjoy bar snacks and cocktails on more low-key nights.


The Pinhook is an LGBTQIA-friendly and queer-owned bar and venue for music and creative events located in the heart of downtown Durham. They are "a safer space for queer and otherwise marginalized folks to express themselves and feel comfortable doing so." The House of Coxx never disappoints with drag performances, among many other affirming events held within the space on Main Street.


When the pandemic and marital separation afforded her time for introspection, Michelle Vanderwalker, co-owner of Queeny's, began to acknowledge her bisexuality more directly, a shift that impacted the way she designed Queeny’s. Not only is the small bookshop in the back of the bar named “Rubyfruit” after the 1973 lesbian coming-of-age novel Rubyfruit Jungle and stocked the shelves with inclusive literature, but she also hosts semi-regular drag shows and other inclusive events.

Customers gather around at Queeny's restaurant during an event.

More than just a restaurant, Queeny's is a great space for community. Photo: Discover Durham

Rofhiwa Book Café

With a special focus on Black culture and literature, this café and bookstore hopes to enhance the sense of community and Black excellence that has long existed in the East Durham area. Stop by the space for good conversation, books by Black writers from across the globe and a wide selection of coffee brews.

Sunlight bathes the counter at Rofhiwa as a barista makes coffee.

Find your next favorite read at Rofhiwa. Photo: Discover Durham

Soul Sanctuary

Soul Sanctuary is an event space and intentional community offering accessible housing, food security and supportive spaces for LGBTQIA Elders. Located northeast of downtown near Braggtown, the land is home to two farms working as a collective, Elijah's Farm and Kindred Micro Farms. The space also hosts community events and volunteer days.

Sahaja S P A C E

Offering yoga, birth work and other Special Happenings, Sahaja S P A C E is a center for individuals to come together and focus on collective well-being and growth. Nurture your spirit here with Collective Care, movement and meditation.

Temple Studio

Worship your hair at Temple Studio, a collective studio that gives community members a safe and empowering space to "revel in the textures and colors of humanity’s hair." Book an appointment or just drop in to peruse their selection of small-batch, low-tox, eco-conscious hair and home products.

The Velvet Hippo Bar & Lounge

This downtown rooftop bar has a fun collection of signature cocktails, mocktails and local brews that will delight all who enter their doors. As a neighborhood bar, the Velvet Hippo is dedicated to providing a safe and welcoming space for all members of the community. Grab a table inside with some friends, or enjoy a birds-eye view of Durham from their outdoor patio.

About the Author

Discover Durham Staff