By Meghan Gillespie and Devin Dunlevy
City on a Hill Press Reporters

After months of being left out in the cold, gay party-seekers in Santa Cruz finally have somewhere to get their freak on.

Welcome to the Rainbow Room: Seabright Bar & Lounge’s Thursday night dance party that caters to Santa Cruz’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The bar, which started the Thursday event this January, is nestled on the outskirts of Santa Cruz’s Seabright neighborhood.

Dance music pours out of the club’s door in loud pulses. Inside, multicolored lights that emphasize the club’s name spiral around the ceiling while club-goers either chat at the bar, sit on the multitude of couches, or dance to the musical stylings of DJ AD, formerly the DJ of Club Dakota, a favorite haunt for the local gay population that closed in July 2008.

The bar’s owner, who prefers to be known by his first name, Madison, came up with the idea for the gay-friendly bar when he realized that the town’s gay nightlife was dying off.

“Everyone was really excited when I said, ‘You know, people, I think I’m going to have a gay night,’” Madison said. “They were like, ‘Oh man, you’ve got to do it.’”

Madison hopes that the Rainbow Room will revitalize Santa Cruz’s LGBT nightlife scene, which nearly disappeared when Club Dakota was forced out of business due to bankruptcy.

Madison hopes that the Seabright Bar & Lounge will not suffer the same financial troubles as Club Dakota, but worries that the gay community in Santa Cruz isn’t big enough to sustain the overhead of bars.

“That’s why we’re having more trouble than other bars,” Madison said.

Despite economic fears, Madison understands the importance of drawing both gay and straight clubbers back to the Santa Cruz area.

He expressed his desire to accommodate anyone, regardless of orientation, at the Rainbow Room.

“We shouldn’t draw the line, we have to integrate,” Madison said. “Other bars should have a gay night, too.”

One of the ways that Madison is attempting to integrate the local straight and gay communities is through a weekly College Night.

Beginning in March, on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m., students from UC Santa Cruz or Cabrillo College who present a student ID at the door will pay no cover charge and will have access to reduced-price drink specials all night.

Madison hopes that College Night will encourage more partygoers, gay and straight alike, to frequent his establishment.

UCSC students make up a significant portion of the local LGBT community. They are also feeling the sting of the decline in nightlife that caters to the needs of that community.

Tiffany Smith, a fourth-year UCSC student and a queer activist, is excited about the Rainbow Room’s opening.

“I want a club, a place I can go to dance … without going to San Francisco or San Jose,” Smith said.

Third-year student and Queer Geeks club member Michael Tierney also prefers spending his nights out.

“Most of the day we have school, so nighttime is usually the only time we get to go out, yet there’s nowhere to socialize,” Tierney said.

Madison hopes his idea will triumph and do wonders for the Seabright community.

“My bar is evolving every day,” Madison said. “I want to make it one big community thing.”

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