La Pergola was a lesbian bar open in the 1930’s, situated in the innermost house of Impasse de la Fidelite (now built over by a different building). It was for the most part ran by a woman from Zedelgem named Germaine.
It was the favourite bar of the famous gay-rights pioneer Suzan Daniel, who described the place like this «It was quite small: there were only eight or nine tables. The owner, Germaine was nicknamed Mae West, because she looked like the American actress. I had never seen a woman like that»
Suzan Daniel has also described how in those days the bar owners also had to pay taxes to get permission to have dance floors, but budgets were tight and many tenants didn't. So they worked around it. At La Pergola, they had the advantage of being located in the end of a dead end street and so they had set up the following rules:
The porter, who was outside, had enough time to notice the appearance of the police coming into the impasse. As soon as he spotted them he would discreetly ring a doorbell behind his back. When people inside the bar heard the ring of the bell, everyone on the dance floor had to immediately sit down. Much as if the bar was permanently suspended in an ongoing game of musical chairs.
If you want to hear a sound walk through the queer and feminist legends of Brussels city centre you can click here
The walk can also be taken physically through Brussels, feel free to email us to request a map at firstname.lastname@example.org