A years-long effort to open a new LGBTQ bar in the Uptown vicinity of downtown Oakland appears to finally be paying off. Joshua Huynh is putting the finishing touches on Town Bar & Lounge inside the historic I. Magnin building at 2001 Broadway (at 20th Street).
Calling Huynh resilient is an understatement. Huynh signed a lease for the art deco space long before the start of the pandemic and has been faced with challenge after challenge ever since.
“There’s been a lot of unexpected stuff. I can’t ignore the amount of hits we’ve taken since 2019. Now, I can’t do anything but put my head down and go for this,” he said in an interview with Oaklandside. “There’s no secret to my attitude. Honestly, it’s just that quitting is not even an option. A lot of people are counting on me,” Huynh said, in reference to his family.
Photo Credit: @townbarandlounge/Instagram
Town Bar & Lounge has been a labor of love for his family. Huynh’s brother is a business partner, and his dad is serving as the chief contractor. Huynh himself is an experienced interior designer. He says the family is basically doing all the work to get the bar ready for an early fall opening.
The buildout inside the historic 1930s-era building, which was first reported by Hoodline in 2021, has been no easy task, especially because the space has to be totally transformed. “This is the first time a bar will be there, which means lots of permits, lots of red tape, lots of inspections,” Huynh told Oaklandside.
The entrance to Town Bar & Lounge on 20th Street. | Photo Credit: Albertino M./Hoodline
Given the close proximity of other popular queer bars like Summer Bar & Lounge and The Port Bar, Huynh’s vision for Town Bar & Lounge is part of a larger vision for the Uptown area. And as Hoodline reported this week, the owners of The Port Bar are readying their own expansion nearby as well, with a bar and event space called Fluid510 (1544 Broadway).
“I would love to make a quote-unquote Castro of Oakland, where people flow from bar to bar all night, a real gay scene right here in Oakland,” Huynh told Oaklandside. For years, he was a bartender at prominent gay bars in the Castro and says, “I realized that the best times in my life were in the Castro, being myself, being gay and free.” This will be the first time Huynh has owned a bar.
He is still finalizing the cocktail menu and is also still trying to figure out how to work food service into the mix. He’s hoping to utilize an outdoor space to seat diners. The goal is to have Town Bar & Lounge open sometime in September. You can get updates by following the bar’s Instagram page.