Re: “Developer proposes 132-unit apartment building on Congress Street” (March 10):

As a longtime resident of Portland’s Parkside neighborhood, I welcome smart development! I also recognize a strong need for an increase in market rate and affordable rental housing.

I appreciate developers who want to work with residents and existing local businesses to find a plan that works for Portland to grow while maintaining its unique character.

That’s why I was thrilled to read that the proposed apartment building on Congress Street near Longfellow Square would continue to have Joe’s Super Variety operate on its ground floor.

However, I was displeased that Blackstones bar was characterized as a remnant “of (Longfellow Square’s) less refined past.” Webster’s defines “refined” as “free of unwanted substance, improved to be more precise or exact, or having or showing the good education, polite manners, etc., that are expected in people who belong to a high social class.”

Blackstones is Maine’s oldest gay bar. Opened in 1987, it has been providing a place for Portland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to socialize ever since.

A staple of the community, Blackstones is constantly giving back to local charities by hosting food drives, toy drives and fundraisers. As co-chair of Pride Portland!, the organization that works to create the city’s annual pride celebration in June, I cannot imagine how we’d continue to be successful without the support of Blackstones’ owners and loyal patrons.

Blackstones is not the type of place where you wait 20 minutes to order a $15 craft cocktail at the bar, but you can find some of the best people, strongest drinks and friendliest bartenders in town.

When I walk into Blackstones, I’m reconnecting with my community, like walking into a gay version of the bar in “Cheers.” To me, Blackstones is perfect just the way it is – no need for refinement at all.

Jill Barkley