Headroom: an LGBTQ-Owned Lounge in Jersey City

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“We need people to be more accepted,” said Joseph Cameron, owner of Headroom LGBTQ+ Lounge. “We should be able to walk around the street and hold hands and kiss and do whatever we want to do and it is perfectly fine, because, why shouldn’t it be?”

It’s that heartfelt notion that serves as the framework for Headroom LGBTQ+ Lounge. Cameron, 38, wanted to have a dedicated LGBTQ-owned space, a place where everyone could be themselves – he got that and so much more. Read on to learn more about Headroom in Jersey City located at 150 Bay Street.

The Story

headroom lgbtq lounge jersey city

“Basically, my entire adult life I’ve only worked for myself,” said Joseph.

He went to a technical school but always had his own side business. JLC Social Marketing, the business he started back then, is still operating – and he never slowed down.

A real estate appraiser until the housing crash of 2008, Joseph decided to shift away from real estate and returned to his prosperous marketing company. Hired by E Rock Entertainment, the number one nightlife entertainment company in the tri-state area, he became E Rock’s and their sister company ERG’s social marketing manager.

Two years ago, Joseph started the immensely popular “What’s the Tea” drag-brunch at the now-closed Talde. He began working with Eddie Baez of JC Pride as a volunteer a few years back, donating upwards of $10,000 in services in 2019. He now serves as a co-producer at JC Pride, working closely with the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce.

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^ Joseph

During 2020, Joseph pushed for live events, with his main live event space being what would eventually become Headroom LGBTQ+ Lounge. After an event, the owner wanted to speak with him.

Read More: Hoboken + Jersey City Businesses Opening Soon

“He approached me afterward and said, ‘I want to do something in the LGBTQ space, I don’t really know anything beyond that. Is this something that you’d be interested in?’”

Joseph jumped at the opportunity to fill a massive void for LGBTQ+ spaces in the area. There are only a handful of LGBTQ+ spaces in New Jersey, but none owned by an actual member of the community.

“Opportunities for our community are very few and very far between,” Joseph said. “It literally took a pandemic for us to get a place that is owned and operated by our community, there aren’t many of them.”

Headroom existed for some time, though only in name as a private event space. Headroom LGBTQ+ Lounge officially opened on November 28, 2020.

The Concept

“I made this very clear from our opening night,” Joseph explained. “This is not just a place to come and drink, we are actively trying to help our community.”

Joseph has hosted food drives and pride events at Headroom, not charging anything for the event space. He also caters to his performers, allowing them to fully execute their artistic vision on stage.

“That’s it,” he said. “There’s no competition here. We have room for everybody.
“I wanted to make sure everybody knew when they were walking through the door, this is an LGBTQ+ space, no if’s, and’s, or buts, no grey area – full stop.”

 

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It was crucially important for Joseph that Headroom LGBTQ+ Lounge be a safe place for the entire community. Since the lounge is owned by a member of the LGBTQ+ community, He knew the onus was on him to make the place a haven for his community.

“It’s not just that LGBTQ people are tolerated,” he said, “this is a place where we can be celebrated – and that’s a very stark difference.”

Joseph says Headroom is a place for community members and allies of all kinds. But make no mistake, he isn’t going to tone anything down.

“You know we aren’t going to bend to make anybody feel comfortable,” he shared. “If you want this extreme gay experience, come on down because that’s what you’re going to get.”

Opening During COVID-19

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{Photo credit: @headroomlounge }

When Headroom opened in November 2020, restrictions were at their tightest. All over, families were having solitary Thanksgiving dinners, only seeing each other over Zoom. But still, Joseph pressed on with the opening.

“Isn’t a pandemic the best time to open a lounge?” he joked.

Despite the pandemic, Headroom is thriving. The sales numbers were astounding, according to Joseph, quite possibly placing Headroom in the upper tier of Jersey City businesses. He attributes to his community’s response to finally having a space owned by one of their own.

Still, COVID-19 restrictions were followed explicitly. Tables are six feet apart from edge to edge, the venue has increased ventilation, entertainers are COVID-19 tested weekly, face masks are required, there is no sitting at the bar, and contact tracing is done on the way in.

See More: Hudson Pride: Serving the LGBTQ+ Population in Hudson County

Though it only opened in November, Headroom has already expanded its location twice. The location started as just the showroom, but when two adjacent businesses closed, Joseph and his business partner seized on the opportunity to increase the footprint. This allowed for better ventilation and more space for patrons.

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Opening such a vibrant, celebratory lounge during a pandemic isn’t the ideal time for such a social establishment. But he has thought of that too.

“We still have not officially had our grand opening,” he said. “We want to have our grand opening when we can reveal exactly what the full vision of Headroom is.”

Though Joseph has big plans post-pandemic, he’s taken lessons from this tumultuous time, wishing to eschew the old nightlife trope of wall-to-wall people.

“Yes,” he explained, “we’re still going to host shows. Yes, there’s going to be a lot more people here, but it will not be a situation where everybody is squished up like sardines. “I don’t personally like that, I don’t think most people do, and after a pandemic, I don’t think anybody is going to be on that page.”

Regardless, Joseph has big plans for the official grand opening and beyond – but he can’t share them just yet. “You’re going to have to wait and see,” he said, “but the roadmap is pretty crazy.”

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Born and raised in Bergen County, Christopher Goodlof fell in love with Hoboken when he took classes at Stevens. During that time, he seemed to be attempting in earnest to eat his way through Hoboken. As a musician in a national touring act, Christopher saw the country many times over, but always returned to the endearing and charming state of New Jersey. Graduating from Rutgers Newark, Christopher found a love for reporting about culture, entertainment, food, and people. In his spare time, Christopher can be found writing, painting, making music, cooking, reading, or playing with his dog, Jango.