Size Acceptance Nightclub Opens in Reno

Club Plus Life, the first size acceptance nightclub in Reno — and awesomely, that’s just how they describe it — opened last week. Co-founders Anthony Piersanti and Jean Olson met at a plus-size club in California and were bummed to find that Reno didn’t have one when they moved there. So they started one. Kickass.

“It was uncomfortable going to your typical club,” Olson said. “I was always the fat friend with the skinny girls. Going to a club where I was accepted was a breath of fresh air for me. At these (plus-sized clubs), everybody got to dance, and everyone’s accepted.”

And she means everyone. Although the club was created with plus-sized customers in mind, Piersanti himself isn’t overweight and loves hanging out with the mixed crowds. He said he prefers larger women.

“We call it a size-acceptance club,” Piersanti said. “We cater to the plus size, but we wouldn’t turn away somebody who is thinner. Last Friday we had all shapes and sizes. Everybody could feel free to be themselves.”

I LOVE that. At first, I was leery of the concept because — as much as I totally appreciate the need for safe spaces — I hate the idea of fat people sequestering ourselves. The fact that it’s uncomfortable to go to a plain old club — and it definitely can be uncomfortable, even for smaller fatties (and hell, that’s if they let you in the door) — shouldn’t be our problem to fix, you know? And the solution really shouldn’t have to be hiding ourselves away, so those people who made us uncomfortable get exactly what they want: they never have to see fat bodies dancing. They can continue to pretend that fat people don’t exist, or that we all spend our Friday nights at home alone, or that we’d never want to dance in the first place, because it’s too much like exercise. Fuck that.

But of course, all that’s the idealism talking. Realistically, the assholes out there can suck the fun out of anything, especially something that involves moving your fat body in public. So a hassle-free place for fatties who love to dance is indeed a breath of fresh air, even if it’s simultaneously problematic.

What I like about the sound of Club Plus Life is that they’re not just creating a fatty safe space, they’re creating a real alternative to clubs that are all about getting conventionally hot babes in the door so that not-so-bright men will follow them in and spend a ton of money trying to impress them. I hated those clubs when I was thin, too, but I always loved dancing, and there was nowhere else to do that. (There was one ancient beer hall and one vaguely Mexican restaurant that both had DJs and much lower-maintenance crowds, so we’d go there sometimes, but the trade-offs were having to step around pools of barf on your way to the bathroom and going home smelling like burritos, respectively.)

As I always suspected, and confirmed when people sent photos for the BMI project, many of the people who read this site aren’t fat. And many more aren’t very fat. Body image bullshit affects everyone, and there are a whole lot of people out there of all sizes who just want to be able to enjoy the lives and bodies they’ve got, without constantly feeling guilty and ashamed because they don’t measure up to an absurdly narrow beauty standard. Not to mention people who do more-or-less measure up but recognize that standard for the horseshit it is anyway.

All of those people need an alternative to traditional clubs, where that absurd standard is not only reinforced but celebrated. Fatty-only dances are swell, and arguably necessary, but I really prefer the idea of a broadly inclusive People Who Don’t Suck club, where the only requirement for getting past the velvet rope is that you not be a judgmental dickwad. A club where people go because they just like to dance and drink and hang out with their friends — and if you hook up, great, but that’s totally not the point. Where is that club?

It sounds like Club Plus Life is trying to be that club, sort of, and yay for that. If I ever get to Reno, it’ll surely be my first stop.

What do you think about all this, Shapelings? Are fatty clubs a good thing, or do they amount to us voluntarily marginalizing ourselves? Do you think a size acceptance club open to everyone will really be just that, or is it likely to be a de facto fatty-only club? Have you been to plus-size clubs or dances? Do you go to regular clubs and hold your double chin high? Tell me everything.

(H/T Fatgrrl)

30 thoughts on “Size Acceptance Nightclub Opens in Reno”

  1. I like the idea of a club based on acceptance of people rather than turning them away. Actually, the most fun I have going out is to gay clubs…assuming what I want to do is dance. If I’m not looking for a hookup, there’s nothing like a bunch of hot half-dressed men grinding on you while telling you your outfit is fabulous and that they love your hair…

    I don’t necessarily love the idea of sequestration, but maybe if the enterpreneur types see that acceptance = profit, they might eventually re-think their business plan and start encouraging more diversity.

    That said, there’s still probably always going to be the contingent that wants to judge based on appearance and go out to be seen and admired – and those people, honestly, should have a venue where they’re all stroking their own egos and not bothering the rest of us.

  2. If I’m not looking for a hookup, there’s nothing like a bunch of hot half-dressed men grinding on you while telling you your outfit is fabulous and that they love your hair…

    True, except A) I feel like that’s a violation of their safe space, and B) I’ve had strange men try to fix my goddamned hair at gay clubs, and tell me my outfit was fab but my shoes were awful, and get all, “Uh, honey, you know you’re not going home with anyone here, right?” on me (YA THINK?), so it was never a perfect experience where my self-esteem was concerned anyway.

    That said, there’s still probably always going to be the contingent that wants to judge based on appearance and go out to be seen and admired – and those people, honestly, should have a venue where they’re all stroking their own egos and not bothering the rest of us.

    Oh, HELL yes. Let them keep their clubs, and let them stay there. But it would be nice if the rest of us had somewhere to go.

  3. I think it’s a GREAT idea. I always loved to dance and when I was in my early 20’s I’d spend every weekend out doing it. Being thinner then made it seem easier to go out and have a good time in a place like that. It would be great to have a place here in Colorado that was just laid back.

    Clubs are meat markets and I never went to get picked up, I went to dance. Now though, it’s like I feel guilty for dancing because I am not what anyone would really consider sexy. Of course, I need to remember that no matter how often you’re led to believe everything you do is for the eye of the guy, you should be doing it for yourself.

    I’m 31 and married now, so unfortunately I don’t get out to dance often. When I did, there were only a FEW places to go that weren’t filled with self-important guys and gals wearing the latest Gucci sunglasses. One of my favorites sort of went by the way side. It wasn’t ritzy or expensive, it was just a place you went and danced. It had people of all sizes and colors, it was great mix of people. Sad to see it go…now I haven’t been out dancing for at least a year.

  4. I do the gay club thing too when I just want to dance. I hate going to straight clubs honestly. I already feel awkward at any club because I’m about a foot taller than the girls who I am with. Having a big bum just makes it worse.

    But realy, I think the worst part for ME about going to straight clubs is the assumption that everyone there is there to hook up. I would like to start a club club for women(Or men) who just want to dance, enjoy themselves, and not get hit on by creeps.

  5. I think this is an interesting idea. I’ve never been to a club of any kind because I can’t dance, but I think if such a place existed where people went with the understanding that there would be a mix of people there, and that people went to this place because of the mix, it would be something I would like to try.

  6. I go to indie nights and goth nights and even occasionally metal nights, and despite the image of the stick-thin miserable goth type I’ve always found that I fit in fine there regardless of my size and always have a good time.

    My favourite club night is actually a monthly goth night in London called B Movie, which is even more fun when they put on one of their 80s nights. But I’m sadly hampered by living in Cambridge and hence having to get the last train home around midnight or find a friend to stay with.

    The regulars there really are a complete mix of shapes and sizes from tiny to fat and not one of them ever seems the least self-conscious about their size. It’s brilliant.

    B Movie

  7. Yeah, goth clubs have been pretty much the extent of my regular clubbing experience, and they’re fairly size-accepting. It depends on the scene and the city — big city clubs can have more of a “see and be seen” feel, but in the goth scene it’s generally about the extreme outlay of effort and money on your clothes/makeup, more than about your thinness or beauty. And at the small-town club I went to in college, we were all a bunch of sad-ass schmos for the most part, so there was no lookist hierarchy. I’m not entirely unashamed of that part of my past, but goth was a great place for a fat adolescent, I have to admit.

  8. When I go out dancing, I often feel great before heading there. You know, dress my best and all, I could not look any better…

    Anyways, if I go there to get guys, I usually come home feeling way down since it’s the realm of the beautiful people (as defined by the media and hollywood). However, if I go there just to dance and have fun, then I have a great time.

    Gotta admit that I like the idea of an all-size is welcome type of place, much more so than an inclusive fat-only club.

  9. I think it’s interesting that they’re calling it “size acceptance,” which does feel a little more open than just “fatties only.” I share the beef about sequestration – I think part of being a fat activist (for me) is taking the fat where it “shouldn’t” be. I’ve never had a bad experience at a “normal” club, but I think it could be fun to not always be the odd (fat) girl out, too.

  10. I think part of being a fat activist (for me) is taking the fat where it “shouldn’t” be.

    In my area we have “guerilla queer bar,” where a bunch of queers and queer allies take over a traditionally straight establishment. In my area we also don’t really need it, though it’s always a blast. Guerilla fat bar, though? That could shock some pants right off.

  11. Yeah, goth clubs have been pretty much the extent of my regular clubbing experience, and they’re fairly size-accepting.

    Al and I went to the DNA Lounge in San Francisco last year, and while it’s not officially a goth club, afaik, there were lots of gothy types there, a handful of fat chicks dressed to the nines, and plenty of random dorks like us. I felt a bit old, but not otherwise out of place, and definitely not unwelcome — it was a great experience.

    More clubs like that, please.

  12. Oh, Eleanor, it’s been well over two years since I last went to B-Movie (chronic pain & fatigue + clubbing = not so much) but I absolutely agree with you; it was the best place for going to have a good time and feeling good about myself, and no feeling that I couldn’t dance because of my fat. I was a regular for the first two years that it was running and I was worried that great atmosphere would somehow fade, but from what my friends say it’s just as good as ever. Everyone’s accepted there as long as they’re not being arsey.
    I think a size-acceptance club is a fantastic idea because as true as it is that we need to be doing everything we can to promote size-acceptance everywhere, and that we shouldn’t be sparing the fat-haters by giving them their ideal fat-free night out, there are times when you just want to relax. I don’t want to feel like my every public outing is a political statement, and a size-acceptance nightclub would be a great place to go if I just wanted to have a good time dancing and not end up feeling fragile or self-conscious.

  13. Also, DNA Lounge is an awesome name. I wish I lived near there. I went to a bar named Helix to have a memorial drink when Francis Crick died, but Helix is not my kind of place — as much as I admire Crick I don’t want to pour out a $10 martini for him. Woulda had more fun at DNA from the looks of it.

  14. Back when I actually went to clubs (I have 2 kids and cannot stay awake past 10), I either went to gay clubs or to a couple of smaller clubs in New York (downtown) and Boston. ( We live in San Francisco now). When I lived in L.A. I went to a couple of clubs, but found myself getting annoyed with the amount of posing that went on. (Seriously, people, do ya really think some producer is gonna put you in the next Spielberg flick ’cause of what you look like holding your friend’s hair while she vomits?)
    I was one of the few who just wanted to dance, and the clubs we found back east were conducive to that. I remember seeing one guy dressed as a viking, for no apparent reason, and no one even blinked. Another time I went to a “regular” club and noticed the girl wearing a lace top with no bra, dancing on the bar, surrounded by drooling men. It was kinda sad. I guess some people REALLY NEED attention!
    Anyway, I could probably find a good place in SF, but instead I just put on some music and dance around the living room with my kids.
    And go to bed at 9.

  15. Alyssa, I have always put on music and danced around my room when I lived with the parents and now my entire house when my husband isn’t home.

    Dancing really is about joy, expression and sometimes sexuality. But slowly, in terms of a lot of club atmospheres it has turned into something strictly about sexuality. It would be completely uncomfortable for me to be out with my significant other in a club where a woman is basically stripping for free.

  16. You know, I have never liked dancing even though I have always loved music and I like to, you know, move around. I think it’s shame built in from soooo long ago (square dancing in middle school gym, maybe?) that I just haven’t allowed myself to enjoy it unless I’m really drunk. And now I just don’t go out dancing, because it’s not something I do. I’d love to go to a size acceptance club to see if maybe I do enjoy dancing after all!

  17. I love the idea of having a place to hang out and dance that isn’t a place for judgmental dickwads, but having the word “plus” in the name doesn’t sit right with me. It’s partly the reason I also don’t like being called “plus-sized” — making the extra descriptive term essential is implying that the other range of sizes is the default, i.e. “normal”. It also just sounds sort of tacky and cheap to me. As does using the word “club” in the namne. I’d be happier if it had a less label-y name — “Piersanti’s”, for instance — that was simply advertised as a size-acceptance club.

  18. You know, I don’t club much yet or anything, but from my experiences with many different types of business establishments, it seems to be that starting your own place with the rules you want to see enacted EVERYWHERE is normally the best way to start change… I mean, who is really holding the gun to the “normal” club owners’ throats and telling them to let fat people in?

    Nobody. So they’ll keep doing what they do. And these new club owners are doing what they think the others should be doing, and maybe when this club is a huge success and makes tons of money (and I do predict that it will be successful), the other guys will perk up their ears.

  19. I don’t do much clubbing now because working + seminary=tired early in the evenings. Hopefully that will change over Christmas break. But I like the sound of that club in Reno because they accept people of all sizes. I have friends of various body types, so that would be an awesome place to go.

  20. Hold on a minute – do bars really turn people away for being fat??? I’ve never heard of that before. My husband was a bouncer and worked the door sometimes, and that sort of thing wasn’t even on the radar – they were far more interested in keeping out the under age kids or violence prone idiots.

  21. I was under the impression that a lot of nightclubs (not bars) do indeed turn away the “ugly” or “undesirable” people…. Well, maybe not turn them away, but they certainly don’t get a free pass in like the cute little tweenie-boppers do they? They have to “Wait in line like everybody else” while they watch the social “standard” of beauty walk right in.

  22. Yeah, Kunoichi, Charli’s got it right. There are certain clubs that do their best to cater only to The Beautiful People, and they will keep out those who are too fat, too old, not dressed hot enough, whatev. But that’s certainly not something that happens at your average bar. (I’d be fucked if it were.)

  23. I’m not gonna lie, I would vastly prefer an all-inclusive size acceptance club that accepts ALL sizes rather than being fat people only. That could be due to, you know, my size.
    And I imagine that I’d be excluded from a Beautiful People club for some dumb reason anyway, even if I’m the ‘right’ body type (although ideally, I’d be a 32/34D/C rather than 32A :P).

    I’ve never been clubbing (I turned 18 about 2-3 months ago, and still live with my parents and don’t have my license or a job…….), but if I ever go to one, yes, I would want a place where I can just dance and have fun without all the getting laid obsessing and judgemental freaks. I lovelovelove dancing, although my skills are a tad questionable. But I don’t care. :P

  24. Anybody go look at the photos on the site? They’ve got some beautiful people getting into that club!

  25. I agree with Margaret. It would be nice if there was a club that was equally accepted for their size, fat or skinny. It’s funny, I was at a club Friday night and a guy commented to me that I was ‘too small’ to dance with. I’m still not even sure what to think of it.

  26. skinnyminny, are you microscopic? Because in that case I can totally understand “too small to dance with” — hard to dance with someone you can’t see. Otherwise, I’m as baffled as you are.

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