By Bob Vitale
People ask Sam Ramirez why he had to open a gay bar in Mansfield.
“Because we need it,” he always replies.
Sami’s, the first gay bar in Mansfield since 2003, will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, July 19, with the same things he hopes will draw customers every other night: dancing, drag and an atmosphere where everyone gets along.
“I tell people, ‘Leave your bigotries at the door.’”
Ramirez owned Mansfield’s last gay bar, Hollywood Nights, which closed more than a decade ago. He’s been open since March, but he saved the celebration for summer.
Sami’s bills itself as the only gay dance club between Columbus and Cleveland. It’s a space that would make bar owners in both towns jealous.
Inside, there are two pool tables, a 15-by-30-foot dance floor and a big round bar that sits between the two. There’s a stage outside, along with another bar, a fire pit and picnic tables.
The crowd is usually about 50-50 gay and straight, he said, but Ramirez hopes it tilts more to the gay side. He has big plans for weekly drag shows and monthly extravaganzas.
He’d like to bring in queens from both cities to his north and south on I-71.
Just having a place to go for a beer is good enough for some.
“There was nowhere to go,” Kim McKinney said of Mansfield’s decade without a gay bar. “You had to go to a straight bar, but you couldn’t be yourself.”
Sami’s is located at 178 Wayne St in Mansfield. Find Sami’s on Facebook under Sami’s Bar.