Toledo's LGBT community comes together to discuss new space in absence of Bretz Nightclub

TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - For many in Toledo's LGBT community the former Bretz Nightclub was more than just a place to party.

"It was a safe place to be who I am with friends and actually not have to worry about harassment, especially as a female," said Sheena Barnes. "It was a time to actually express who I am freely."

Back in December the club abruptly closed after 30 years in business.

A few weeks later the Greater Toledo House of Prayer announced its purchase of the property.

"We're not upset that it's a religious group," said Barnes. "It's the fact that what they do with their religion that hurts so many people in the LGBT community."

On its website, the local ministry notes it doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or genders other than male or female.

Its purchase of what many considered a safe space for the LGBT community has people like Barnes concerned.

"Younger generations won't have that experience that I did when I found the first time I walked into Bretz," said Barnes. "I don't think they will have that."

But Sunday LGBT leaders and supporters came together in hopes of changing things.

"There were a number of people that reacted in different ways to Bretz closing and we saw this as an opportunity and people were saying they wanted a space of some kind to be opened," said Equality Toledo's Executive Director Nick Komives.

Komives says his group would like to partner with other organizations to open a LBGT community center near the former club.

"Adams Street, or the Village neighborhood, is an open, inclusive space," said Komives. "So we think it would be appropriate to have it here."

He says the center would ideally have a food pantry, health services, suicide prevention and other resources.

With the absence of Bretz it's something that Barnes says she's ready to see come to town.

"It's about our future—the youth of LGBT," said Barnes. "Like, where they're going to go, where they're going to come to when they need us. We need somewhere that is open and safe."

A statement released by the Greater Toledo House of Prayer notes its ministry had no involvement in Bretz's closing and that it bought the club because it needed more space.

As for the proposed community center, Komives says this is just the beginning and it will take at least two years of planning to make it a reality.