Donald Thinnes, Long Time Bar Owner & Community Stalwart, Has Died

Chuck Tierney, Donny Thinnes, and Jack at the Norreh.

On the morning of Saturday, January 20, 2024, Donald “Donny” Thinnes passed away after battling a myriad of health issues, according to long-time friends.

Donny Thinnes had been involved in the LGBTQ Community of Pittsburgh since the 1970s. Thinnes owned and operated the gay bar on Herron Avenue in Polish Hill that went by varying names over the decades, including the Norreh, DB’s, Leather Central, and simply Donny’s Place. The bar has closed and reopened in various fashions under different management over the last few years.

As the owner of Donny’s Place, Thinnes was a member of the Pittsburgh Tavern Guild, a collective of LGBTQ bar owners in Pittsburgh that was the precursor to many of the LGBTQ Community organizations that would come in the 1980s and 90s.

Thinnes was also a founding member of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh in 1996 and served as an emeritus board member until the Delta Foundation was forced to shutter in 2020.

Plans for a memorial service have not yet been announced.

From the QArchives, here is a selection of photos of Donald Thinnes and the Norreh / Donny’s Place:

The Q Archives are a queer history preservation project of QBurgh consisting of publications and photographs from the past 50-plus years of LGBTQ Pittsburgh history.

Jim Sheppard is a resident of Downtown Pittsburgh. Jim served as a Commissioner on the City of Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission which investigates instances of discrimination in the City of Pittsburgh and recommends necessary protections in our City Code to provide all people in Pittsburgh with equal opportunities. He has worked for Pittsburgh City Council, the Pittsburgh Mayor, and the Allegheny County Controller. For five years he was the President of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (He / Him / His)