LGBT bars and pubs across the United States have been forced to shutter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some venues fighting to remain alive or closing for good.
Many individuals are cash-strapped and unable to afford their rent or finance their business expenses. Many venues are already on the verge of closing, with an unknown future ahead of them.
GayCities, an LGBT travel website, launched the LGBTQ Nightlife Relief Fund at the 2021 Queerties, an annual award show produced by Queerty, which celebrates the best in LGBT culture and media.
“This is not only about preserving historic LGBTQ venues, but it’s also about saving these spaces for future generations to come,” said Scott Gatz, CEO of the LGBT media company Q.Digital.
Donations will be paid out as one-time $500 matching grants to qualifying LGBT venues before the fund is exhausted. The venues must already have a GoFundMe. The grant will cover business expenses and provide financial help to employees.
In order to qualify for the grant, the businesses must verify that the venue has been negatively impacted by a government mandate due to the pandemic. They have to have a new or pre-existing fundraiser that included the hashtag #savequeervenues.
The venues also must be independently owned and operated, and must not be nationally dominant in the field of operation.
In support of the relief fund, GayCities has partnered with Grindr, the queer dating app. Grindr has donated considerable advertisement space and has come on board as a fundraising teammate to GoFundMe.
In turn, GayCities has donated $250,000 worth of free advertising space on its website to promote and generate funds for this cause.
In the description in its GoFundMe, GayCities emphasizes the importance of keeping LGBT spaces open during COVID.
“Your local queer bar might be where a young person comes out for the first time. A drag show at the closest city’s nightclub is where newfound acceptance and confidence are born,” as written on GoFundMe. “Individuals cast away from their families of origin who are seeking love and connection have found solace and sanctuary in these venues.”
In addition, GayCities stresses the role of LGBT venues in social and political campaigns, noting that the spaces have long become safe spaces for queer people to gather and mobilize in the face of racism and bigotry.
So far, the fund is approximately $7,000 away from its goal of $50,000. The fund has over 520 donations, with the top donation being $10,000 from the GoFundMe Team. These donations are tax-deductible.
"For many, queer bars and clubs are the first safe space they found where they could meet people and find irreplaceable community,” Gatz said. “We need to step up to save these important venues.”