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emily bielagus and mary herbkersman
the Ruby Fruit

Emily Bielagus and Mara Herbkersman

Emily Bielagus and Mara Herbkersman

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

When it came to opening the Ruby Fruit, the first lesbian bar to operate in Los Angeles in six years, co-owners Emily Bielagus and Mara Herbkersman found success by not overthinking it.

“Lots of people were telling Mara and I that this wasn’t a great idea for many reasons, lots of people had lots of opinions about what we should and shouldn’t do, and instead of listening to those people, we listened to ourselves,” Bielagus says. “We didn’t hire a design team to work on the space, we just painted the walls a color we liked and decorated with books, objects, and art from our own homes; we chose a name that made us both smile; we play the music we like to listen to; we serve the wine we like to drink and the food we like to eat.”

Even though establishments for queer women have long been endangered, the opening of the Ruby Fruit — the wine bar/restaurant’s name is a nod to Rita Mae Brown’s classic 1973 lesbian novel, Rubyfruit Jungle — demonstrated a community clamoring for their own space.

“Our first night of service was one of the most stand-out moments of my career,” says Herbkersman, who also serves as the Ruby Fruit’s chef. “In the minutes leading up to doors open, we began to see throngs of people walking through our parking lot, approaching the restaurant, forming a small crowd, and we realized they were there for the Ruby Fruit. When we opened the doors, folks streamed in, our gay ’90s Lilith Fair music was playing, and we watched couples and friends sit down and claim seats and then start to look around the room in amazement.”

Bielagus and Herbkersman are dedicated to making their Silver Lake venue a mainstay of L.A.’s queer community — not an easy feat in a city that grows more expensive by the day. “Late-stage capitalism is a real bitch,” Bielagus admits. @therubyfruit


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Neal Broverman