overview

In 1996, Meow Mix opened as a sex-positive lesbian club known for its live music, though it is best remembered for its appearance in the 1997 film Chasing Amy.

It was owned by Brooke Webster, a successful party promoter who went on to open Cattyshack in Brooklyn after Meow Mix was forced to close in 2004.

Header Photo

Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2020.

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History

Meow Mix, open from 1996 to 2004, was located at 269 East Houston Street at the corner of Suffolk Street, on the Lower East Side. The owner, Brooke Webster, already had a following after making a name for herself as a party promoter; she also managed the lesbian band Tribe 8, which likely explains Meow Mix’s emphasis on live music. The club is best remembered, however, as a filming location for the 1997 film Chasing Amy. Ironically, the main character Amy is a lesbian who ultimately gets “turned” straight by the male “hero,” which was a typical storyline for lesbian characters in mainstream film.

There are some surviving photographs of performances at the club showing the sex-positive, exuberant quality of Meow Mix, continuing the tradition started at lesbian bars in the 1970s of promoting lesbian performers. The exterior of the building featured large windows partially covered in posters on both facades. While this allowed for some visibility from the street, the club’s exterior decor did not necessarily indicate that this was a lesbian bar (there were no rainbow flags or permanent signs with women on them, for example, as was the case at some other LGBT bars at this time).

In 2004, Meow Mix closed, citing “flooding, city harassment, and a shift in the neighborhood demographics.” The latter part, in reference to gentrification, was perhaps not as surprising as “city harassment” in an era when being openly lesbian, at least in a supposedly progressive place like New York City, was no longer supposed to be an issue.

A year later, in 2005, Webster moved on to her next endeavor, Cattyshack, a three-story club at 249 4th Avenue, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which was open until 2009.

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