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Owner: Gay nightclub in Pittsburgh to close, victim of social progress

Tony LaRussa
| Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

Of the reasons Scott Noxon has for closing one of Pittsburgh's oldest gay and lesbian nightclubs, the most significant might be that there really isn't much of a need for such establishments anymore.

"Back when the Pegasus Lounge first opened, it was a safe haven for gay people to be themselves and meet others with like-minded interests without the worry of being hassled," said Noxon, 49, who has owned the Downtown nightclub for five years.

"But now there is much greater acceptance of the (gay and lesbian) lifestyle. People can pretty much go where they want and be who they want to be without worry. So, in a sense, we're victims of the progress that has occurred," said Noxon of McKees Rocks, who owns two other clubs in the city.

On Friday, Noxon announced that the Liberty Avenue club will close on Dec. 6 after 29 years in business.

In addition to a diminishing need for clubs catering to such a specific clientele, Noxon cited greater enforcement of drunken-driving laws and the extra cost to patrons as a result of the Allegheny County drink tax as reasons for closing the business.

In its heyday, Pegasus frequently drew crowds that were so large that lines of patrons waiting to enter formed outside.

"We had a reputation for having cutting-edge music," said Noxon. "Our DJs were fantastic and you would hear music at the club several weeks before you would hear it anywhere else."

Pegasus was among the places where pop star Christina Aguilera, who grew up in Wexford, performed during "teen night" talent contests that she entered.

In recent years, Pegasus has been a popular gathering place for high school and college-age students.

"We're happy to be able to provide a place for these kids to get together," Noxon said. "And even though they pay a cover charge, the fact that they can't drink means it's hard for us to even break even."

The nightclub was also where researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found people for the Pitt Men's Study, the oldest ongoing study of the natural history of the HIV.

Two years before the virus was identified, patrons of Pegasus and other gay establishments were given free beer in exchange for providing samples of their blood.

The Pitt Men's Study was the catalyst for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.

"We've had an awesome time in this club," said Noxon, who noted that Pegasus was the first gay club he ever patronized at age 24 and was a regular for years before he became the owner.

"It's part of Pittsburgh's history, so I, and a lot of our customers, are a little sad that its closing."

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