As many African American LGBTQ-owned bars dwindle across the country, owners and married couple Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon are blessed to be the proprietors of two clubs in New York City. PrideIndex had the opportunity of talking to the owners of spirits company Lambda Vodka, Lambda Lounge Harlem, and Club Lambda BK. They met through a mutual friend in 2010. The couple has been inseparable since. They have been together for approximately twelve years and married for almost six. The couple shared their journey into the bar industry, how they separate their businesses from married life, and more.
PrideIndex (PI): Share your journey to bring Lambda Spirits to the marketplace.
Lambda BK (LBK): Lambda Vodka was created due to the lack of visibility within the spirits market by the LGBTQ+ community. We continued to see advertisements for different spirits catered to specific market segments. This prompted us to research the process of creating our spirit. In our heads, sales and marketing would be smooth and easy. It didn’t quite go that way. We struggled with sales as we were a new spirit to the market at a high price point due to a lack of understanding. We did find our place satisfying the need for sponsorships within the LGBTQ+ organization community. We started to sponsor events from Los Angeles to New York. Our end goal is to create Gin, Rum, Tequila, and a Cognac to satisfy all spirit drinkers within our community.
PI: What obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them?
LBK: The major obstacle faced was people taking us seriously. We seem to come off with a very young vibe and dress. This may cause business owners to think of us as irresponsible and lacking experience. We have built a real estate portfolio and multiple other LLCs consisting of Lambda Vodka, Lambda Lounge Harlem, and Club Lambda BK.
PI: How did you handle business during the COVID-19 pandemic?
LBK: Business during COVID-19 showed us we are resilient! It required us to be adaptable to business changes. There were no greater changes in business than those required by restaurants. Not having a kitchen required strategic planning and operation. Also, keeping people at a distance was a great challenge in itself, especially when we were the only place for the Urban LGTBQ+ male to frequent.
PI: Who came up with the concept and name for the product?
LBK: I did! (Ricky Solomon) My husband thought of the idea to create a vodka and named it “Rainbow Vodka.” We were unable to do so and are thankful for that. I did my research on the history of the LGBTQ+ community. I found the significance of the Greek Lambda symbol and how it stood for liberation within our community during the Stonewall riots. Lambda Spirits is an LGBTQ+ company. Are there any concerns with regards to limiting yourselves as a niche product? – No concerns at all! Our community is a community of support. We saw the lack of products for us! Having products created and speaking directly to us gives a sense of pride.
PI: Talk about the marketing experience when and where this product was promoted?
LBK: All marketing is done through social media and grassroots. The Lambda brand satisfies such a need within the community word of mouth allowed us to skyrocket so fast.
PI: How do you separate your business life from your married life?
LBK: We call it “Damage Control.” We try to spend weekends away from the city as much as possible to detach from the business. We notice we work from sunup to sundown, and all conversations tend to be about Lambda. Leaving the city allows us to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company without the constant decision-making disagreements.
PI: What does the future hold for Lambda Spirits? What does the future hold for Charles and Ricky?
LBK: Our goal is to expand the spirit’s brand. We want to create rum, tequila, and cognac to add to the portfolio. This will allow our consumers the same smooth taste in all different spirit styles.
Club Lambda BK IG handle club_lambda_bk
Lambda Lounge IG handle lambdaloungeny
Charles Hughes IG handle lambda_mogul_1
Richard Solomon IG handle lambda_mogul_rich
CourtneyCreativePR IG handle @CourtneyCreativePR