Galveston’s dazzling show club Rumors is a gay bar, but at the same time it really isn’t, according to owner Todd Slaughter. He prefers to call the popular Seawall venue at 31st Street “everyone’s bar.”
“We have a very diverse crowd. Everybody is accepting. It’s inclusive, and we’re open to everyone,” the ambitious club owner emphasizes.
Some nights will see more LGTBQ customers than other patrons, but on weekends Rumors lures in people from all backgrounds who might be out on the Seawall for a bachelorette party, a birthday, or an anniversary celebration. The five-year-old bar boasts a new 2,000-square-foot deck built as a pandemic-compliant option for outdoor dining, drag shows, band appearances, karaoke, people-watching, and just hanging out. The non-smoking venue—with its views of the nearby Pleasure Pier, a jetty, and boats on the water—make a scenic backdrop for Island fun. “It is the best location on the Seawall, and we took advantage of the outdoor space,” Slaughter says.
“We’re the bar that’s been at this site the longest. That’s kind of an achievement.”
The Tennessee native, who was working as an interior decorator when he arrived in Houston in 1994, got into the bar business in 2016 after being drawn to Rumors’ unique Seawall location. The former convenience store had been transformed into a gay bar in the early 2000s, when it was home to Splash, Sandbox, Starz, Third Coast, Undercurrent, and Boulevard—all before Slaughter noticed the space was once again available.
Slaughter set about creating his new Galveston business by putting his interior-decorating skills to good use. When he asked a group of friends socializing at another local bar to help him decide on a name, the majority of them wrote “Rumors” on a piece of paper. Slaughter thought it was a fun reference to the kind of chatter that goes on in all gay bars. When Rumors first opened, its recurring drag show was named “Gossip Girls” as a play on the venue’s name.
Slaughter had been in Houston for several years before he ever visited Galveston. “I knew Galveston was here, but I didn’t know what was here. Once I saw it, I was hooked.” After he moved to Galveston, his new friends and business contacts helped him turn Rumors into a success. “It started off very well. Galveston took to it, folks from Houston came down, and people from Dallas and the rest of Texas and Louisiana also started coming. It’s been five years now. It seems to be working.”
Galveston’s open and accepting environment has played a big role in Rumors’ success, even at a time when gay bars are no longer the social hubs they once were. “We’re the bar that has been at this site the longest,” Slaughter adds. “That’s kind of an achievement.”
At one point, Slaughter operated two other bars in Texas that were also called Rumors, but they did not survive the pandemic. He continues working as an interior decorator when he is not tending to his Galveston bar, which he says is an exhaustive undertaking. Rumors’ manager, Kymber Divine, is also one of the drag-queen stars, and a staff of a dozen more bartenders, barbacks, and other key personnel assist Slaughter with day-to-day operations.
Slaughter says his drag-show talent is top-notch, with performers coming in from across Texas and other states. The drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights are always sold out, and the bar has begun producing two shows on Saturday nights (at 8:30 and 11 p.m.) to accommodate the demand.
With the pandemic restrictions easing around the country, Galveston is “busting at the seams,” Slaughter says. The hotels, bed-and-breakfast sites, and RV parks are full, and people obviously want to have fun again after a year of abstaining. He is anticipating a record number of people visiting Rumors this summer. And when it rains, he notes that they have plenty of entertainment options inside the bar, including pool tables.
Slaughter attributes the success of Rumors, in addition to its aesthetic appeal, to customer appreciation and the bar’s open-door policy to all. “With any business, customer service is the key to getting them here and keeping them here. It would be nice if all bars were [like this one], where everybody goes.”
For more information, visit rumorsbars.com.
This article appears in the July 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.