These LGBTQ Bars Were Almost Lost To Covid-19 But They’re Reopening Just In Time For Pride
The Covid-19 pandemic was a devastating blow to businesses around the country. Forced to shutter their doors amid a deadly pandemic, many business have struggled to stay open. But as the country begins to return to a ‘new normal’ and the dust begins to settle, we’re starting to see the real effects the pandemic has had.
Few industries have been hit as hard as LGBTQ bars and clubs which were already suffering before the pandemic, thanks to dating and hookup apps like Grindr and Tinder. Bars like Therapy, a Hell’s Kitchen gay bar that was a favorite among contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, a dual nightclub in Washington, D.C. featuring drag queens and erotic dancers, closed after a combined 57 years in business. Some of the country’s oldest and most beloved gay bars are on life support: Stonewall in New York and the New Jalisco Bar in Downtown Los Angeles.
Thankfully, though, not all is lost as bars we thought would never return have managed to make it through to the other side thanks to support from their communities – and just in time for Pride Month!
Akbar – Los Angeles, CA
A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $190,000 within 24 hours to help save this unique queer space in LA’s Silverlake neighborhood. According to the bar owners, 20% of funds raised over the $150,000 target will go toward the Trans Latin@ Coalition, a trans advocacy organization based in Los Angeles.
The owners believe the outpouring of support is fueled by people “responding to the last four years” of Donald Trump’s attacks on LGBTQ+ people. “There is a sense of community that people feel a responsibility toward,” he said. “If it comes in the shape of supporting a watering hole, just a plain old bar, so be it.”
Atlanta Eagle – Atlanta, GA
When the Atlanta Eagle closed in March, many feared it was the end of one of the city’s most influential queer spaces. Although locals sometimes refer to Atlanta as a blue dot in a red sea, the Eagle is even more precious turf: It’s the only leather bar for 600 miles to the north (Washington, D.C.) and 600 miles to the South (Wilton Manors, FL).
The Atlanta Eagle is equally intentional about including people of varied ages, body types, and racial identities. It’s home base for Onyx Southeast, a national leather organization for people of color. Thanks to a landmark designation by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the Atlanta Eagle could soon be given ‘historical landmark’ status which would help the bar remain in place.
CC Slaughters – Portland, OR
Portland’s iconic CC Slaughter’s got its start amid a raging pandemic, it opened at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1981. It’s always been known as a celebratory spot where local queers and out-of-towners could dance to live DJs, where queer women could congregate for Tuesday Ladies night, and the Sunday night crowd could catch a diverse showcase of queens, drag kings, gogo boys, comedians, live singers, flow artists, and burlesque performers of every skin color and gender identity.
After shuttering its doors last year amid the pandemic, many thought the iconic Portland bar would never return. Several bars in Portland had already shut down for good but thankfully in April 2021, CC Slaughters came back to life thanks to support from the community.
Club Cobra – Los Angeles, CA
Last year when the first lockdown went into effect, Club Cobra announced that they would not be able to reopen. This devastated the community who had come to rely on Club Cobra as a safe space where they felt comfortable being themselves. In fact, Club Cobra was home to Transfix, a one-of-a-kind event that gave transgender people a space to earn a living, be celebrated, and grow.
But Club Cobra will reopen its doors from today (June 18) just in time to help the community celebrate Pride Month. When the club opens its doors Friday and Saturday, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., patrons will notice a “substantial” renovation that “was always overdue.”
Henrietta Hudson – New York, NY
As COVID-19 ravaged the nightlife industry, lesbian bars — already in decline across the country — were scrambling to weather the storm. One study suggests that between 2007 and 2019, listings for lesbian bars in a national guidebook of LGBTQ+ places declined over 50%. Henrietta Hudson is one of the few that have survived: The West Village bar, which opened in 1991, has made it through 9/11, the 2008 recession, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The lesbian-owned bar has stayed afloat with a mix of virtual DJ dance parties via Zoom, GoFundMe campaigns, and even virtual bingo.
New Jalisco Bar – Los Angeles, CA
The New Jalisco Bar is one of the oldest Latinx queer spaces in Downtown Los Angeles. Owned by husband and wife couple Rosa Maria and Sergio Hernandez, the pair have been working hard since the 1990s to make it a safe space for Downtown’s LGBTQ Latinx community.
The bar has been shut since March 2020. However, a GoFundMe has been setup to help raise $80,000 towards reopening the bar. The couple points out that owe the landlord 12 months of rent with interest and the debt puts us at risk of closing down permanently. But there is still hope to get this iconic and much-needed safe space reopened. If you’d like to help the New Jalisco, you can contribute to the campaign here.
Stonewall Inn – New York, NY
The Stonewall Inn is the first national gay historic landmark and the birthplace of the modern day LGBTQ rights movement, yet it too struggled to pay the bills amid the pandemic. Thankfully, a GoFundMe campaign setup to help the bar raised more than $300,000 since it launched, helping the bar stay afloat despite its $40,000 monthly rent costs.
Will you be venturing out during Pride to celebrate this LGBTQ safe spaces? Did you lose one of your favorite queer spaces to the pandemic? Let us know in the comments!
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