Lonely? Try the Lesbian Love Bus 

Who knew there was a dearth of fun-filled Sunday-afternoon activities for the lesbian population of Richmond?

Enter Dave Johnson, marketing director for Carytown's New York Deli, solver of problems and general maker of fun for lonely women. His answer? Load 'em on a bus at noon, fill it with cheap beer, take them to an alcohol-fueled party in the nation's capital and then home in time to sleep it all off before Monday morning.

What to call this chariot of feminine fun? The Gayhound, perhaps?

"Right now we're calling it the Love Bus," says Johnson, whose planned venture is a partnership between the deli and nearby Babes restaurant, the city's best-known lesbian bar.

As of now, the name is the least of the proposed event's problems to overcome. Originally scheduled to roll out of town two weeks ago, a new date of departure remains up in the air, expected to land somewhere in the vicinity of May or June.

"People are talking about it," says Erin Shehane, manager at Babes. But with a price to ride of $60, she says, "we had some trouble selling tickets."

What doesn't sound brilliant about dropping $60 for a suds-soaked trip to Washington, D.C.? In retrospect, Shehane thinks she knows.

"We're making sure people know that they're going to a party and they're not just going on a bus and getting dropped off in D.C. [to] go find something to do," she says, noting that the price for admission has dropped to $40.

The trip is modeled after a combination of two events: Sunday-afternoon bus trips to New York City bars popular among suburbanites and tea dances, popular mixers in the gay community held on Sunday evenings. But the Love Bus doesn't just debark a gaggle of sloppy drunk women next to the Lincoln Memorial for three hours of sightseeing.

Instead, the end of the line is Phase One, a popular Beltway lesbian bar familiar to New York Deli owner Demetrios Tsiptsis. Once there, the ladies are in for an afternoon of -- well, more drinking — but also of meeting new people from a nearby lesbian community.

"It just seems like there are so many people," Tsiptsis says. "There's so much drive for there to be fun or different things to do — but nobody does it." He sees this as an ongoing promotional event with the same excitement he brought to the Carytown New Year's Eve bash: "I want this one to be done right as well."

If it is done right, expect expanded tour opportunities, says Johnson, who's already planning a "Boy Bus" excursion. "The Boy Bus thing is going to be called the DuPont Circle Exchange Program," he says, naming the event after an area of Washington known for gay bars.

What about those Richmonders attracted to the opposite sex?

"A straight bus? That would not be a bad idea," Tsiptsis says. "I'd definitely ride on it if we did one, but I just don't see straight people doing stuff like that. I guess we could do a bar crawl."

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