U4ia, a multi-level nightclub, opened at 10630 Berea Road in 1989. U4ia operated as a “private club” and welcomed “gays and their friends.” Billed as the “largest gay dance club in northeast Ohio,” U4ia featured over “130 feet of bar space” and advertised “different activities scheduled every night of the week.” The club’s seven owners (including Hank Berger, Joe Costa, Joe Ledford, David A. Pecjak Jr., and Mark Rock) collectively spent over $400,000 to “[restore] the club to a warehouse look with a theatrical theme.” U4ia’s first floor contained a large dancefloor, stage, “two bars long enough to have fashion shows on, an area with cushy vinyl sofas,” and “tables and booths” surrounded by numerous TV screens. The club’s second level contained a balcony that peered above the club’s lower level, while the uppermost floor contained the club’s DJ station and an “exclusive” area with rentable private booths. Walls throughout the club were painted lavender and adorned with “murals by Craig Robertson, a local artist.”

U4ia hosted a variety of weekly “featured events” from Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Wednesday nights at U4ia were “show nights with an in-house cast of performers,” while Thursday nights featured house music spun by local DJ Cookie Banks. Friday evenings were advertised as “U4ia Fridays” and featured “no cover and drink specials.” On select Fridays, U4ia changed its name to The Fridge and played music intended to attract a more heterosexual crowd. On Saturday evenings, U4ia hosted “Big Night at the Big Club” evenings with “theme nights and national acts appearing on the stage.” On Sunday evenings the club changed its name to The Garage and featured progressive music “geared toward younger lesbians and gays who [were] tired of disco music.” U4ia became most well-known for its massive themed parties, including Holiday parties, Halloween parties, “fetish parties with whips and leather, Mardi Gras gatherings with bare chests, beaded necklaces, and feathered masks, and Heaven on Earth shindigs where everyone [dressed] in white.”

From the time it opened in 1989, U4ia was as controversial a club as it was popular. U4ia’s manager Joe Farinacci instituted a “proper dress” policy that applied only to women. Per U4ia’s dress code policy, women not wearing dresses or skirts (i.e., wearing pants) were to be explicitly denied entry by the club’s private security. This policy, publicized in the Gay People’s Chronicle, immediately generated outcry among LGBT+ community members who felt that the club’s dress code had been implemented specifically to discriminate against and deny entry to lesbians. To protest the club’s discriminatory dress code, over 20 local lesbians and their allies held a protest outside of the club on its grand opening night in August 1989. Protesters formed a picket line outside the club, handed out leaflets to clubgoers, and voiced chants including “Lesbian rights, right now,” “2, 4, 6, 8, U4ia discriminates,” and “Stop racism, sexism, and classism.” Following this initial protest, U4ia manager Rob Farinacci temporarily rescinded the dress code before re-instating the same dress policy nearly a month later. The Gay People’s Chronicle subsequently urged LGBT+ community members to boycott U4ia outright due to the discriminatory actions of the club’s manager and predominantly straight ownership. After U4ia was forced to temporarily close for a month in December 1989 to “deal with problems with the liquor license that had been bought from previous owners,” gay part-owner Joe Costa reported that Farinacci had been replaced by a new manager. Under U4ia’s new management, a new dress code policy was implemented that applied to “both men and women.” U4ia implemented other changes in response to the continued outcry from LGBT+ community members, including renovations to the club’s women’s bathrooms that removed sexist imagery. Costa also promised to “sponsor at least four benefits per year for a variety of [LGBT+] community organizations.” However, LGBT+ community members (and lesbians in particular), remained skeptical that “U-Phobia, as some [called] it,” would properly address their concerns going forward.

Conflicts with lesbian community members notwithstanding, U4ia continued to attract controversy alongside its growing popularity throughout the 1990s. On packed evening in January 1994, an unknown patron attempted to set fire to a tear gas cannister on the club’s dancefloor. The club was evacuated without injury to patrons during this incident, though the perpetrator was never caught. Two years later, in August 1996, a disgruntled former club patron intentionally drove a stolen car into the front of club and caused massive damage. The car crashed through club’s front doors, “zoomed across the dance floor and rammed into the bar” before “setting fire to the carpeting,” triggering the club’s sprinkler system and flooding the club’s main floor. U4ia closed for three months to renovate and repair damages resulting from this collision, later reopening in October 1996. Two years later, in November 1998, U4ia was raided by members of the “Cleveland Police department, detectives, and members of SWAT” following a “month-long investigation” into “open drug use, cocaine sales, underage drinking, and public sex” at the club. The 1998 raid resulted in the arrest of nine U4ia patrons and one of the club’s owners.

Additional information coming soon.


  • Boone, Bob. “A Remodeled U4ia to Open.” Gay People’s Chronicle. October 25, 1996. Page 5.
  • “Boycott U4ia.” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 1989. Page 2.
  • Brunstedt, Mike. The Cleveland Flats.
  • Cooley, Patrick. “Cleveland’s Gay Bars Evolve in an Age of Greater Tolerance.” Cleveland.com. March 28, 2017.
  • “Gay Ohio: Cleveland.” The Guide. October 1989. Page 34.
  • Jimmie. “Perry Wins Mr. Gay Ohio All American.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 8, 1994. Page 12.
  • Leach, Dawn E. “Ten Arrested in Drug Search at Nightclub.” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 20, 1998. Page 1-2.
  • Melendez, Michele M. “Club Inspires A State of U4ia.” Plain Dealer. September 26, 1997.
  • “Mike Brunstedt Interview, 12 July 2023.” Cleveland Voices.
  • Mullen, Daniel R. “Truck Dampens Saturday Night Fun at U4ia.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 16, 1996. Page 1.
  • “New Gay Dance Club is Opened.” Plain Dealer. September 7, 1989.
  • O’Malley, Michael. “Man Suspected of Crashing Car Into Nightclub.” Plain Dealer. September 21, 1996.
  • Owens, Sharon. “Should We Believe Them?” Gay People’s Chronicle. January 1990. Page 3.
  • Pontoni, Martha. “U4ia: ‘A Party Every Night.'” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 1989. Page 4.
  • Pontoni, Martha. “U4ia Bars Lesbians (Again).” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 1989. Page 1.
  • Pontoni, Martha. “U4ia Opening Marred by Protesters.” Gay People’s Chronicle. October 1989. Page 1.
  • Schneck, Ken. LGBTQ Cleveland. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2018. Page 74.
  • Schnur, Susan R. “U4ia Dress Code.” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 1989. Page 3.
  • Steen, Charlie. “U4ia Apologizes, Changes Policy and Mgmt.” Gay People’s Chronicle. December 1989. Page 4.
  • Strassmeyer, Mary. “Marathon Fashion Parade.” Plain Dealer. September 13, 1990.
  • Strassmeyer, Mary. “New Gay Dance Club is Opened.” Plain Dealer. September 7, 1989.
  • “Tear Gas, Not Fog Machine, Clears the House.” Gay People’s Chronicle. January 28, 1994. Page 3.
10630 Berea Rd., Cleveland, OH 44102 (U4ia).

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