Support us with Kachingle!
May 31, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
It’s Wednesday night in the aged, modest building off Business Loop. Within the four walls of The Arch and Column Pub, patrons are gearing up for karaoke and drinks. At the bar sit The Arch and Column owner Pitt Potter and SoCo Club owner Marty Newman. Although they own the two competing gay bars in Columbia, Potter and Newman don’t let it affect their friendship or their business.
“We totally give our customers two different products,” Newman says. “They are more of a pub with a great patio, and we’re more of a dance club with a quiet lounge.”
Where: 128 E. Nifong Blvd.
The Arch and Column Pub
Where: 1303 Business Loop 70 E.
The Arch and Column is low-key, a place for fun conversation and a sense of familiarity. The walls are mostly devoid of decoration, except for collages of costumed regulars from theme-night fundraising events.
“It’s like a basement party,” Chris Cordray, one of the pub’s bartenders, says. “Everyone knows each other. Everyone comes in and has a good time. Nobody feels embarrassed to get up and sing.”
But The Arch and Column isn’t purely about karaoke and drinking. Health education and awareness are also priorities. Approximately once a month during theme nights, the pub provides its space for HIV/AIDS testing paid by the city.
“We like to give the gay community a place where they can go, be able to relax without getting harassed about anything,” Cordray says. Patrons worried about being HIV positive can come to The Arch and Column’s testing nights to get some peace of mind.
Although both establishments support their community, most nights are reserved for fun.
After karaoke Wednesdays come to an end, Thursdays come alive on the other side of town at SoCo. The show starts at 10 p.m., but guests wait and play pool with drinks in hand in the swanky lounge filled with TVs and oversized leather couches. But once 9:30 hits, excited patrons flood into the club, and things get rowdy.
A rambunctious crowd awaits the drag show. Lights, disco balls and loud dance music gets patrons on the dance floor after the show. The performers have a lot of fans.
“It’s a great night to come out and enjoy a boy in a dress,” Newman says.
Drag isn’t the only thing that distinguishes SoCo from The Arch and Column. The Arch and Column is a place to relax after work and engage in good conversation, but SoCo is a high-energy club known for its dancing and divalicious drag shows.
Another difference? The Arch and Column doesn’t allow minors. Potter suggests SoCo for underage guests, so long as they’re at least 18 and have IDs. SoCo is strict about underage drinking — IDs are held at the door — but Newman says it’s important to at least let minors join in on some of the fun.
“One of the kids came up to me and pretty much thanked us for letting them in because they really didn’t have any real place to go to be themselves,” he says.
The Arch and Column and SoCo differ in atmospheres, but they share a common theme: Everyone is welcome.
“If you’ve got a few dollars in your pocket and an ID, you can come in and party with us,” Newman says.
The hard-working owners rely on each other to provide a distinct experience for Columbians. Thursday nights, Newman heads to The Arch and Column for a drink with a friend after he shuts the doors of SoCo.