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May 28, 2024

Worcester’s oldest gay bar reopens following renovations

A mural depicting the Worcester cityscape at night with green, red, pink, and orange paint. Photo I Courtesy of the MB Lounge A mural of the Worcester cityscape by artists Stacy Lord and Laura Marotta hangs in the MB Lounge.

After being closed for nearly five months, the MB Lounge reopened Wednesday, offering again what owner Marco Guinette refers to as a safe haven for the area’s gay community.    

Often referred to as Worcester’s oldest gay bar having opened in 1971, the MB temporarily closed its doors on Jan. 4 for maintenance and repairs. The outer brick walls of the lounge’s 40 Grafton St. location had absorbed water over the years, and though there was no current threat to the building’s structural integrity, Guinette chose to close to make preventative updates.

Guinette said he’s had hundreds of people thank him since Wednesday with many telling him stories of violence and intolerance they’ve experienced at other local bars they patroned during the bar’s closure.

“Discrimination really still is very active and alive in this city,” said Guinette, “which is sad because some people were getting assaulted and laughed at going to different places where we thought, you know, we had more rights.” 

Safety is a chief principle of Guinette’s as he works hard to make sure his customers feel secure in his business.

“I don't let people bother people. Nobody can pick on anybody. They just feel very safe and they are so glad,” he said.

The response to the reopening has been reassuring to Guinette as he looks to sell the majority of the business in the next couple of years as he and Keith Bellerose, the lounge’s manager whose work and dedication to the MB Guinette credits for a large part of the business’ success, are looking to retire soon.

While closed, Guinette said he decided to give the interior of the MB a facelift; he’s repainted, redone the bathrooms, added new artwork, and incorporated a fog machine and lighting truss to the dancefloor.

The most salient change of all though is the bar’s new mural of the Worcester cityscape done by local artists Stacy Lord and Laura Marotta. The mural features black light reflective paint and a pride flag signifying the MB’s presence in the community. Lord and Marotta are co-founders of nonprofit Creative Hub Worcester, an equity-centered artistic community center. 

The MB is reopening in advance of its Stonewall Block Party on June 29. The annual event includes a drag show followed by music and dancing until 1am. Though Worcester’s pride celebrations take place in September when college students are back in the area, Guinette purposefully throws the annual party in June, the same month the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, was violently raided by police in 1969, inciting infamous riots. 

Commemorating and paying homage to the Stonewall protesters is of the utmost importance to Guinette; he considers the MB the Stonewall of Worcester and has photos of key gay and trans activists who were present at Stonewall, Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, hanging in the bar and makes sure to educate his customers on their role in the gay liberation movement.

“You can be who you are these days because of these two people who fought for our liberation,” said Guinette.

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