Sugar Shack

Based on Chapter 25 in East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte and South El Monte Arts Posse’s “East of East” archive.

Text and archival material curated by Eric Ignacio Thomas


Photo of JG Quality Printing former site of Sugar Shack, 2021

The Sugar Shack was a gay and lesbian bar located at 1401 North Arden Drive in El Monte. Rosalinda Rose “Rivas” opened the “Shack” as it was locally known in 1987. Working-class LGBTQ community built familia and celebrated Chicana life east of East Los Angeles throughout the 1990s; cruising what they coined, the Eastside Circle and mapping queer spaces.

Three-minute Oral history of Sandee Estrada and Debi Tinker describing the vibe of the Sugar Shack during the 1990s. Contextualizes the bar by remembering and recasting El Monte’s nightlife and toasting LGBTQ Latinas and Chicanas

Oral histories conducted by South El Monte native and scholar Stacy I. Macías brings to life the colorful cultural significance of the bar and the local Latina, Chicana and immigrant women; Latina Butch-Femme and familia embodied. Sandee Estrada and Debi Tinker, two self-identified gay Chicanas, comadres, and patrons vividly retell the relevance of the Sugar Shack.

Listen to a 13 minutue clip with Sandee Estrada, Debi Tinker, Rose Peinado, Deb Andrade, Marty Castillo, and Nancy Vasquez conducted by Stacy I. Macías

Butch sensibilities and gay women-of-color have reimagined the greater El Monte as one with echoes of resistance and history making. As Stacy I. Macías dynamically explored in her essay in East of East, community and kinship both biological and familia widen public histories of LGBTQ Latinas and Chicanas: 

“The Eastside Circle not only constitutes a significant local Latina lesbian orbit of the 1990s for the likes of Sandee, but it also represents an understudied, disregarded, and peripheralized history of communities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) working-class people of color whose queer—or outsider—status place them in search of affinities beyond the glitter and flash of 'Gay L.A.'"

On this tour we will discuss Sugar Shack’s importance to locals and to the larger history of the LGBTQ community and give a shout out to Eddie’s, Infinities, Redz, Plush Pony and Tender Trap.

Want to contribute your photos or stories? Get in touch with SEMAP at 

To learn more about Stacy Maciás, the author of chapter on the Sugar Shack and SEM native, read our profile here

Or listen to here below


Sugar Shack listed in LGBTQ directory and nightclub roundup, 1990

Sugar Shack