As I exit my car, I notice the outside of the bar is not attracting much attention. The letters “HAUS” stand above the front entrance, and subtle streaks of neon blue and purple flash through the front windows. When I walk up to the front door, I can finally see that the bar is much bigger than it appears from the outside, stretching deep into the building. There’s comfortable but worn leather furniture to the right of the front door. Behind the furniture, there’s a raised platform with a couple more leather couches and a projector screen. To the left, a couple bartenders work to serve the handful of patrons already crowding the long bar at 10:15 PM.
The attractive man taking cover charges is brusque, motioning for me to quickly pull down my mask and hand over the $10 cover. He places a neon yellow wristband on me, hands over my change, and already begins looking to the few people in line behind me. I walk over to the worn black couches in the waiting area to wait for my friends to join me for tonight’s drag show, “Purple Reign,” a tribute to Prince.
Before attending this show, I had done a bit of research about Das Haus. Meaning “the house” in German, Das Haus opened in June of 2018 and is owned by Adam Norris and Michael Bland. According to their website, Das Haus is “designed to bring a fresh vibe to the downtown scene,” and their “main stage has over 132 moving lights and Lincoln’s first 25,000 watts, five-way sound system, only found in major European dance clubs.” I’ve never been to a European dance club, let alone a major European dance club, but at least now I’ll know some of what I can expect. In addition, Das Haus doesn’t just host drag shows; there are karaoke nights, foam nights (I’m not quite sure what that entails), game nights, and even drag wars.
My friends arrive a few minutes later, and as we walk down past the bar into the main stage area, we find a table situated directly at the end of the stage’s runway. Though I don’t pride myself on having the most accurate gaydar, I can tell that the audience holds a mixture of queer people and not-so-queer people.
Aptly labeled as a “lounge and cabaret” on its website, Das Haus feels like a sexy, gothic mansion. Chandeliers and disco balls hang from the ceiling, black walls and dark lighting before the show shroud the patrons, and bass-heavy sensual music comes through the overhead speakers. There’s another projector screen next to the stage showing music videos for the songs playing, and an emcee occasionally updates the bar-goers about the ETA the night’s drag performers.
Once the show starts, I understand how this bar has risen to popularity among the LGBTQ+ community in Lincoln and even around Omaha. The drag performers embrace the Prince theme with Prince songs (of course), purple capes and robes, glittery makeup, and impeccable confidence and poise.
I know a drag queen who performed regularly at Das Haus when it first opened. He says, “The crowds there (when I was there) were sometimes small, but over time have grown to be the best location for drag in the state whilst winning many awards for it every year.” In fact, in 2019, Das Haus won Best Production at the All-American Gent national pageant.
My friend also notes that what “Das Haus is and has created for so many people is incomparable to the state of Nebraska. It’s a place where anybody and everybody is welcomed. I can’t say it was for me initially. But it’s grown and become such an amazing venue for everybody.”
At the end of the drag show, the performers bow and greet some of the audience members, while current pop music begins to play. As a bisexual trans man, I can agree that Das Haus is welcoming for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. All the work that the owners, workers, and performers put in day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out has definitely paid off. Their shows are charismatic, sexy, and welcome to all. If you get a chance, make sure to visit Das Haus!