Leo Bartlett, owner of Friends in Gun Barrel City, announced Tuesday, Dec. 20, on his Facebook page that the bar is closing.
“Due to uncontrollable events, the clubs doors must be closed,” he wrote.
The bar has been a center of activity for the LGBT community around Cedar Creek Lake for about 20 years. Pageants, shows, food drives and charity events took place regularly at Friends. The most recent charity drive was a collection for Toys for Tots.
The closing was announced suddenly. Events were posted through January.
“From the bottom of my heart, I have never thought that this notice would go out,” Bartlett wrote. He called the closing a “heartbreaking decision.”
A number of financial factors apparently contributed to the closing of Friends but this summer’s drought, the worst in Texas’ history, was also likely a contributing factor. The lake level was down almost eight feet — far enough that many boat ramps were closed so weekend residents stayed away.
Friends is located in Gun Barrel City, located centrally on Cedar Creek Lake, which is about 60 miles southeast of Dallas. The lake was built by the city of Fort Worth to supplement its water supply in 1964 and is the fourth largest lake in Texas.
The area began attracting LGBT lake house buyers in the 1980s. Many Dallasites bought weekend houses there but the area has also attracted a number of LGBT retirees and other full-time residents.
Since Friends opened almost 20 years ago, other LGBT businesses and organizations have grown around the lake. LGBT-friendly Celebration Church on the Lake in nearby Mabank grew with help from Celebration Church in Fort Worth. Garlows, a second LGBT bar in Gun Barrel City, opened several years ago. Gay campground Circle J Ranch is near the lake in Eustace.
In addition, two cities on the lake have elected gay mayors.
The gay bars draw not only from lake residents but also from nearby Corsicana and Athens as well as a number of other smaller towns in Navarro, Henderson and Kaufman counties.