Quincy’s, Paragon, and Fear: LGBTQ+ Folx Make a Stand and Home Here
In 1979, Paul Freitas re-opened Quincy’s Bar and Grill as Grand Junction, and by default the Western Slopes first ‘gay bar.’ But Quincy’s was more than that, “Gay people are welcome here just like anyone else Negro, Hispanic, Polish….as long as they behave themselves,” said Freitas in a May 1984 Daily Sentinel. The Daily Sentinel described Quincy’s regulars in January 1984 as: “working-class” and that “many of them are Hispanic or members of another minority group,” adding that Quincy’s is perceived as “attracting a bum or two.” Quincy’s back then didn’t allow dancing until after 8pm because of the mostly straight daytime/evening regulars. This may have given rise to the rule that some remember it as a sign, and others as a saying, that Quincy’s was “straight till 8, after 9 your ass is mine.” Freitas told the Sentinel: “I do encourage them (LGBTQ+ folx) to come here. I advertise in the gay guide in Denver.” He added, “If I didn’t have my gay clientele, which I cater to at night, I would be closed at night.” It can’t be overstated how important this was to the small LGBTQ community here at the time. But of course, there were reactionaries. In January 1984, GJ City Council member Mike Pacheco called out the rest of the City Council for two wildly differing punishments for liquor license violations at Quincy’s and another bar near Horizon Dr. “you’re going to throw the book” at Quincy’s because it is customers are a “minority” or the “working man.” Councilman Ray Phipps countered “The difference is that you can take your family out to Harry M’s.” Amazingly, the Daily Sentinel echoed Pacheco’s concerns in an op-ed: “[Pacheco] was ‘appalled’ at the disparity of the treatment given the two establishments. Pacheco argued that law should be applied equally. Pacheco of course, is 100 percent correct,” adding “Too bad…fair play apparently is beyond the ken of the rest of the council.” Quincy’s ultimately had their liquor license suspended for 3 days.
The same year Quincy’s re-opened, the murder of Clyde Peterson in March of 1979, added more fear into the nascent community. His murder remains one of the oldest unsolved murders in the Grand Valley. The GJPD initially pushed a narrative of suicide despite there being multiple blunt-force trauma blows to his head. Decades after the murder, GJPD Commander Mike Nordine, told the Daily Sentinel: “It was a real difficult case because of his lifestyle.” Nordine said that Peterson was very openly gay, and “there were several people we interviewed who had issues with that.”
In 1983, the Gay and Lesbian Support Group began organizing. They ran classified ads in the Daily Sentinel (which again speak to the fear and need for security), which required an interested party to write to an address to be given the meeting’s location. On October 17th, 1983, the group published its first issue of its newsletter, “The Paragon” and a few weeks later organized a large Halloween party at a local hotel. Quincy’s regularly took out ads in the newsletter and actively supported the growing community.
In May 1984, a Daily Sentinel article featured Mark and other members of the GLSG, who spoke candidly about the frequency and severity of hate crimes against LGBTQ people in Grand Junction. The activists were only identified by their first names for fear of reprisals. “There is a lot of harassment that goes on in this town. There are threats, and there is actual physical violence. I think it’s really hostile,” said Mark the secretary of the GLSG. The Sentinel quoted Mark’s writing from the March/April 1984 issue of the Paragon: “The other day I saw on a restaurant bathroom door the words “Kill all gays. Got AIDS yet sucker.” It makes me a little angry, a little frightened and a little confused.” Mark also described being badgered on the telephone and beaten up on the street in front of his house. The article detailed an assault on a man named George, who was followed and beaten leaving Quincy’s by a group of men. The man was hospitalized with broken ribs and ruptured spleen. And another assault on a women named Linda who was assaulted while leaving Quincy’s by a man who had hit on her earlier in the evening. The article concluded with Mark’s writing from the Paragon, “The way to battle such thinking is not to shrink into our own little secret world, but to attempt to educate the public—from our friends to what masses we can reach…We are not abhorrent creatures from the deep, but people good and bad who bleed, feel, laugh and cry just like everyone else.”
In 1984, the first cases of AIDS were detected in Mesa County. A few months later, in the summer of 1985, Mesa County Health Department conducted 35 tests and found new 22 positive cases.
The GLSG dissolved in 1985, as people withdrew to take care of their friends living with AIDS, but the informal networks built and awareness raised by the GLSG would serve the community well, as a full-blown movement emerges in the late 1980s and early 1990s.