Located at 231 E. 16th Street, Gregs is one of the most popular gay bars in Indianapolis and is a frequent stage for drag performances. Indianapolis has had roughly fifty gay bars in the last few decades, according to new information gathered by Indiana Landmarks. It is difficult to identify gay bars because many of them have kept very low profiles, sometimes with shuttered windows and limited publicity, because of anti-LGBT+ policies and public opinion. Some remain concealed to this day, despite changing attitudes. While Gregs does not draw attention to itself as a public space, it has a very public profile and presence in the city today.
The Beginning of Gregs
Gregs first opened on July 1, 1980, as the Wawasee Tavern. In 1992, Phil Denton purchased the bar and changed the name to Our Place. Denton transformed the space, which hosted several Leather and Bear Clubs, subcultures within the LGBT+ community known for their hyper-masculine image. The bar also hosted the T.G.I.F. Bowling Classic, the Circle City/Indy Cup Volleyball Tournament, the Halloween Bag Ladies bus tour and coronation, and other LGBT+ events.
Operating for more than 34 years, the Indianapolis Bag Ladies are a fundraising group that sponsors drag performances to fundraise for AIDS organizations in the city. Performances by the Bag Ladies at Gregs have also brought awareness and support to Indianapolis LGBT+ communities while at the same time existing as a safe space for artistic self-expression.
In June 2002, Phil Denton’s close friend Greg Powers died. An integral part of the Indianapolis LGBT+ community, Powers was involved with Our Place from the very beginning. Though Powers did not seek the spotlight, Our Place was renamed Gregs to remember his community contributions. Following Powers’ example, Gregs has continued to give back to the community, contributing to the annual AIDS Walk, Indy Pride, the Damien Center, Justice Inc., and Indiana Youth Group, among others.