Habana Inn's popular bars welcome new management 

click to enlarge Karren Aloyan, bar manager, poses for a photo at the Copa, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Karren Aloyan, bar manager, poses for a photo at the Copa, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016.

Karren Aloyan loves his job.

After 20 years of running clubs in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Baltimore and New Orleans, Aloyan now manages The Copa and Finishline, two of the most popular LGBTQ bars and nightclubs in Oklahoma City, and he prides himself on making the nightspots welcoming to everyone.

“What we try to do is give everyone a chance to be themselves, whether they want to dress, act, talk or dance in a specific way. This is what makes us so special, and that’s why everybody wants to come hang out,” Aloyan said. “I get so many people who say, ‘Thank you so much. I can be myself here, because if I tried to wear makeup or wear certain shoes or a dress or my hair in a certain way, I might not be accepted somewhere else. Here, not only am I accepted, I make a lot of good friends.’ So we give everyone a chance to be themselves in a judgment-free environment.”

Busting boundaries

The Copa and Finishline are premier bars and clubs in the Habana Inn, 2200 NW 40th St., a major regional LGBTQ destination for the past three decades.

The Copa serves disco and drag show fans. Finishline is a country music and cowboy club.

Generally, country earns a reputation as the conservative American soundtrack. Aloyan said Finishline makes country more inclusive.

“It gives everyone the opportunity to dance,” he said. “You can see girls couple dancing, guys couple dancing and straight couple dancing. The best part is that everyone’s smiling at each other and happy, and that’s because everyone has freedom of choice. That’s what makes it so different: People are friendly and accepted.”

Aloyan first visited the clubs at Habana Inn two years ago and started getting to know the patrons and employees.

In July, owner Nick Post offered him the manager position.

So far, he has not made any major changes to either venue and said injecting an air of positivity at the managerial level makes a lot of difference.

Celebrating unity

Major changes will come with the new year. Early next year, Angles, the massive event venue and former hot-spot dance club at 2117 NW 39th St. will open regularly on weekends, and Aloyan, who will also manage that venue, is preparing to transition Angles from its status as a special events club to a full-service bar and dance destination.

Angles’ history dates back to 1982. Its reputation for great DJs and its inclusive atmosphere helped it become a destination dance club.

Aloyan, who was raised in Armenia, makes a strong argument for his clubs to be spaces where all people come together.

On Nov. 8, as Donald Trump was elected president-elect and the nation’s lines of division became more apparent, Aloyan said Finishline was a place of relative tranquility.

“We have a lot of TVs and a lot of customers who’ve been coming there for many, many years — sometimes 30 years,” he said. “Even during an election, you have people who are being friendly. You have people sharing their opinions and supporting this side or that side, and on that night, you had people who were upset, but the atmosphere was so friendly that you would think the election was the one of the most fun things to do ever. They were sharing their opinions, but they were laughing about it.

“It doesn’t matter who’s going to be running the country,” Aloyan said. “At least here, we’ll still have freedom of choice and the opportunity to be ourselves.”

Print headline: Habana time, New Copa and Finishline manager Karren Aloyan stresses inclusion at popular gay clubs.

Editor's note: This story was updated Nov. 18, 2016, to correct the name of The Copa and Finishline owner Nick Post.

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