Ever since opening The Port Bar in 2016, co-owners Richard Fuentes and Sean Sullivan have received frequent requests to host parties and events at their LGBTQ-friendly club in Uptown. It’s been a great problem to have. But on most occasions, the bar was simply too small.
Now, the two are hoping their new establishment, Fluid510—a spacious social club located just a few blocks away on Broadway—will help to alleviate some of that demand.
“We just saw a great need for a multifaceted, diverse space that people could gather in,” Sullivan recently told The Oaklandside.
While The Port Bar is known for its drag brunches and go-go dancers, Sullivan said that he and Fuentes, both members of the queer community, envision Fluid510 catering to an even more diverse cross-section of Oaklanders.
“The name Fluid 510 comes from the fact that it is fluid and ever-changing,” said Sullivan. “Just like Oakland, we want to welcome all facets of the East Bay community here… This is really a space for everyone.”
Creating an inclusive social club, he said, has meant understanding and responding to people’s innate desire for belonging.
“We have talented people of color [and] queer people all involved in running this operation,” said Sullivan. “If you can make people feel welcomed right away—through the design of the space, the flow, the staff—that helps to capture an audience and make a person feel welcome.”
Sullivan is proud that Both Fluid510 and The Port Bar are helping to keep local people employed, at a time when the city is still recovering from a wave of restaurant and event-space closures.
“For us, this is the renaissance of downtown Oakland, after the pandemic,” said Sullivan. “We’re excited to see that there are more people on the street and that we’re adding to the programming, the opportunities for people to stay local.”
It’s a sentiment that both Fuentes and Sullivan have expressed over the course of a decade of building social and political capital in Oakland.
Fuentes has been active in local government, having served as a legislative director for Oakland’s City Council and a special projects manager for BART. He ran for a seat on the OUSD school board in 2012 and for the Peralta Community College District board in 2014.
Sullivan is the director of Covenant House, a youth homeless shelter, and a board member of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC). In 2008 and 2012, Sullivan ran for Oakland City Council in District 3.
“We believe in the city and we love Oakland,” said Sullivan.
While advocacy isn’t necessary for all businesses to thrive, added Sullivan, it’s been an important element at Fluid510 and The Port Bar. “I think if you’re somebody who captains this idea of [community building], then this is what you have to do.”
In early May, Fluid510 celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a “Roaring ‘20s”-themed party. Guests were treated to a jazz trio, aerial performers, flamenco dancers, and a musical performance by Oakland artist Kev Choice (to give the event a “510 flavor,” said Sullivan). Also performing was dance-music legend Crystal Waters.
“It captured people’s imaginations just the way I had hoped,” said Sullivan. “It was a great opportunity for people to see the space.”
With its 5,000 square feet and 20-foot high ceilings, very few downtown event spaces can match the size of Fluid510, said Sullivan. The building’s original brick walls and hardwood floors have been restored. There’s a need to revitalize downtown spaces like Fluid510, he said, since so many closed during the pandemic and nonprofits are again looking for places to host events.
“What we’re hoping is to be able to provide more rich, cultural programming here in Oakland,” said Sullivan. “We know we are not the experts at it, but here’s the space to do it, and [we can] do it in partnership.”
Visitors can expect a quality craft cocktail selection while enjoying conversation in the lounge, and artisanal charcuterie boards by former Contrasto chef, Alessandro Campitelli.
Sullivan, who also has a background in event planning, said he understands the burden of coordinating venues and outside food vendors. It’s why Fluid510 also offers food services and event planning for groups looking to host an event. Small-bite food services are currently available with plans to expand the menu over the next few months.
Plans for weekly cabaret and vogue competitions are in the works. Upcoming events already on the calendar include the Good Vibes Hella Proud Party and Death Guild, which has typically been held at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.
Sullivan said future programming will be shaped, in large part, by what he and Fuentes hear from their community.
“As business owners, we’re really tapped into what’s going on in the community because we’re constantly listening and we’re constantly asking questions,” said Sullivan. “I think that’s how you run a successful business in Oakland.”