11 Thomas Street
Isaiah’s opened at 11 Thomas Street in 1977. In an interview published in the MCC bulletin, one of Isaiah’s owners, Arthur Desautels, explained that he liked the location near Main Street “because of its proximity to other Gay bars, which would encourage ‘bar-hopping.’”
The owners of Isaiah’s stressed that they hoped their bar would be a home for “all Gays, young and old, male and female.” After Worcester residents Dorothy “Dot” Woodcock and Bonnie O’Harra were united in a Holy Union Ceremony at the MCC, they celebrated at Isaiah’s. In the early 1980s the bar actively advertised for lesbian customers in Equal Times, a feminist newspaper from Boston, albeit with a grimly simple ad announcing in stark white letters against a black background that Isaiah’s was a “Lounge for Women.” Isaiah’s efforts at proactively seeking out lesbian clients came toward the end of its existence, as the bar burned down on February 27, 1983.
Although the owners of Isaiah’s hoped to encourage bar hopping, even the one-block walk between Isaiah’s and the Mailbox could be “scary,” according to Dale LePage, who recalled, “You would never walk alone. My friend Jimmy got pulled into a van, and somebody—some guys beat the shit out of him and—and threw him out—out on the sidewalk.”
Regardless of the danger, a bar like Isaiah’s was the draw for a young man like LePage who was trying to come out. He touchingly described driving to Worcester especially to find the bar then trying to get the courage to go in: “I parked outside—and stayed there outside of the bar for probably three hours before I got the nerve to go in.” Once he got in, he found the bar “extremely comfortable. It was all knotty pine and wooden chandeliers.”
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