Attending queer events is about to become much easier in NYC.
A trio of New Yorkers entrenched in the city's nightlife and LGBTQ+ scenes saw a major blindspot in existing ticketing platforms and decided to make their own queer ticketing platform and coffee house theater—both dubbed "Red Eye."
Red Eye Tickets exclusively features LGBTQ+ performers like Amber Martin in "Bathhouse Bette," Drag Race viewings and other queer entertainment and gives 25 cents per ticket to organizations such as GAG, The Ali Forney Center, Callen Lorde and Rainbow Railroad—something no other NYC-based ticketing platform does.
The importance of this is twofold: by exclusively selling tickets for shows featuring queer performers, Red Eye fills a gap made by other platforms, and by setting aside proceeds to LGBTQ+ organizations upfront, they can help groups that have had a rough couple of years because of the pandemic.
"Any production you take on can be a gamble and as much as you want to support them, it's hard to know what you'll have to offer. By building that in upfront, it guarantees that cash flow," said Red Eye co-founder Sam Benedict. As the winner of the Stoli Key West Cocktail Classic, Benedict was able to raise over $15,000 for Gays Against Guns.
By offering exclusive access to LGBTQ+ performers and their shows, Red Eye promises to give exposure to the talent that people miss out on because they're not found on bigger platforms.
"One of the frustrations when we work with Ticketmaster at a place like Sony Hall, you get these mass emails of events but they're never gay or gay-friendly events unless there's a cross over," Co-founder Daniel Nardicio (and co-owner of Club Cumming) told us this week. "Gay people are spending money and have a lot of expendable income but there is nobody really catering to that."
The company went into beta testing last summer on Fire Island using the site built by co-founder Taylor Shubert, who worked for Nardicio as a Dworld team member. "I cannot believe how seamless and user-friendly our system is. Whether it was our party for July 4th with Ty Sunderland, our weekly smash Dworld Underwear Party, or various charity events we produced, the digital ticketing made promoting and selling our events easier than ever before."
This is massively important because this kind of ticketing experience just isn't there for LGBTQ+ events, he added.
"I think a lot of gay people who do events are not understood by Ticketmaster or Brown Paper Tickets," he said. "They wouldn't care about Amber Martin doing a Bathhouse Bette show or to feature an 80-year-old drag queen. "We want to highlight artists like that. Other ticket companies just want to make money, we want to support really good art and curate events to our following that we love."
Nardicio, Benedict and Shubert will continue that level of support and exposure over at their Red Eye venue, which opens in late spring 2022 at 354 West 41st Street in Midtown West. It's billed as a "full-service spiked-coffee bar" that will have the "hottest performers in nightlife, burlesque and boylesque habitués, drag royalty, broadway triple-threats and TV's biggest stars."
The idea is to have a dedicated space where people can discover new talent or entertainers they've never heard of before and support new talent that will likely not show up on Ticketmaster. It'll also serve as a ticket office, where ticket holders can pick up their tickets and get good customer service, they said. And because it's their own space, the founders plan on streaming live to people all over the globe, which will mean that LGBTQ+ youth (18+) who can't make it into the space due to age or location will be able to tune in and see performers and talent they might not be able to see otherwise.
The hope is that Red Eye melds the communal aspect of a coffee shop with the discovery and playfulness you get at a club. "It's a place you can go to at any hour to find community and inspiration and a buzzy, energetic and kinetic atmosphere," Shubert said.
"It's Amsterdam's Red Light District meets Port Authority," Benedict added, describing the vibe of Red Eye's brick-and-mortar venue. "It has a sinister glow that's really enticing and you're not gonna know what you're in for or where the night's gonna take you, but it'll also have sleek airline terminal vibes like you're walking down the neon hallway getting on a flight and it's about to hit you."
Nardicio says he imagines hot servers doling out cocktails from an airline trolley cart.
The trio's love for travel is a definite inspiration. Shubert's trip to Italy, where he experienced coffee culture heavily influences the coffee house bit of Red Eye.
"You stop everything you're doing and sit at the bar and drink your coffee [in Italy]," he said. "You stop for a second of joy and conversation. The curated look of our bar really supports that. It's not Starbucks, you enjoy a nice coffee-inspired cocktail, write a script, do a podcast recording—it's a meeting destination where you're showing up and indulging the community you want to curate."