The iconic venues that won’t be returning after COVID-19

 

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Some of your favorite LGBTQ venues will not be back after COVID-19 lockdown measures have been eased.

Gay bars and clubs already faced tough trading conditions before the pandemic. A report in 2017 found that London, UK, lost over 50% of its gay venues in the preceding decade, with more closing since that time. The pattern has been repeated in other hotspots such as New York City and San Francisco.

People increasingly meet at home via apps rather than at bars, while gentrification has led to leases in gayborhoods becoming more expensive.

However, if things were tough before, the pandemic has made things worse. Many hospitality businesses are simply not equipped to stay closed for months at a time or to operate at a reduced capacity.

Here are just some of the venues that are unlikely to reopen once the pandemic eases.

Therapy, New York City

Therapy in New York City
(Photo: Therapy)

Therapy in New York City announced on Facebook this week it’s unlikely to reopen. The large, Hell’s Kitchen venue, which launched in 2003, is famed for its drag shows, often featuring queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“It’s with tears in our eyes that we have to admit it is highly unlikely that Therapy will ever reopen. Every one of YOU who has ever worked here, performed here, partied here… We love you. And though we cannot be together today, always know you are Therapy’s family.”

Co-owner Tom Johnson told Eater New York there was a “99%” chance of the bar closing. He said much of the bar’s business was tied to visitors to Broadway, but with Broadway basically shut until next year, the bar couldn’t survive serving a limited number of customers.

Related: New York City gay bars

9th Avenue Saloon, New York City

 

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Also in Hell’s Kitchen is the long-running 9th Avenue Saloon. The fun and unpretentious dive bar had been operating for over 30 years. It has now closed its doors for good according to multiple postings on social media. GayCities has contacted the venue for comment.

Another iconic NYC dive bar set to close this weekend is Rusty Knot in the West Village. Although not a gay bar per se, it was popular with many LGBTQ patrons, particularly on Sundays.

The Stud, San Francisco

 

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In May, the owners of The Stud – San Francisco’s longest-operating LGBTQ bar – announced the business was vacating its longterm home. The venue has a history dating back to 1966. In 2016, its ownership was taken over by an LGBTQ collective of scene performers and promoters who breathed new life into the business. However, even they couldn’t contend with quarantine, and The Stud is no more at 399 Ninth Street.

At the moment, the team continues to produce online drag shows and a podcast on The Stud’s history, with a fundraising Patreon to help the team find a new home.

Related: SF’s oldest gay bar forced to vacate its home but vows to stay alive 

Blow Buddies, San Francisco

One of the most infamous, gay sex clubs in the U.S., Blow Buddies opened in 1988. The 6,000 square-foot club opened in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, seeking to offer somewhere that men could explore safer sex options, including glory holes (hence the name).

Last month, it posted the following message to its website: “Sadly, Blow Buddies will not be reopening after the pandemic. We tried many ways to figure out a path to return and were unsuccessful … It was a good run…August 8, 1988 to March 15, 2020. We are sad to see this chapter close. We thank our many members for their support over all those years. The club was created in response to one virus and done in by another.”

Badlands, San Francisco

 

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The Castro-located Badlands dance club posted a message to its Facebook page in late July stating it would not be reopening and would be replaced by a new business. The bar first opened in 1975.

“Badlands bar is closed. Later this fall a new bar, under new ownership, will open in the Badlands location. The name of the new bar and other details will be announced later, closer to the opening date.”

Related: San Francisco gay bars

Gym Sportsbar, West Hollywood

 

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Gay sports bar Gym announced earlier this month it was closing its Santa Monica Boulevard location. In a video posted to its Facebook page, co-owner Rick Schmutzler said, “It’s no mystery that this pandemic has been incredibly difficult on small businesses, especially bars and restaurants … There is no path forward for us at this location.”

The business had been operating for 11 years, and was a sister venue to the successful Gym Sportsbar in New York’s Chelsea. The owners are hopeful that they will be able to return to a new WeHo venue at some point in the future.

DC Eagle, Washington DC

Launched in 1971, the DC Eagle was the oldest gay bar in Washington DC. Employees were informed of the decision not to reopen in May during an online Zoom meeting. Although it began life as a leather and denim cruise bar, in recent years, DC Eagle had become a more inclusive-space, easing its dress code and hosting regular drag shows and community fundraisers.

The venue had been sold to a new owner, and it was expected to close later in the year to make way for new property developments, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought that closure forward.

Related: Washington DC loses two of its biggest and longest-running gay venues 

Ziegfelds-Secrets, Washington DC

 

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Like DC Eagle, the future of Ziegfelds-Secrets – the biggest LGBTQ venue in DC – was already in doubt after it was sold to new owners in 2016, with a view to potential property redevelopment. However, the pandemic was the final nail in the coffin. Management posted a message to social media in May stating, “Ziegfelds/Secrets regrettably has been forced to close our doors. We all have been honored to bring you the best in entertainment for 40 years, regrettably the option to stay and even have a closing event has been taken from us during this crisis.”

BT2, Austin

North Austin gay bar ‘Bout Time 2 closed in March because of the pandemic and announced in May it was shuttering for good. Bout Time II opened in 2012, and was the second incarnation of the bar, with the first ‘Bout Time running from 1984-2012.

The Beaver, Toronto

 

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This popular LGBTQ venue opened in 2006, proving queer venues could exist outside of Toronto’s gay village. The bar closed in March because of COVID-19. Last week, the team confirmed it would not be returning. What some people love about the place – its cramped intimacy – was now a major setback in a post-COVID, social distancing world.

“The Beaver has always operated on a fine line of keeping the doors open,” the team said on social media. “There were a lot of headwinds that we’ve weathered pretty well … Buildings kept shooting up around us, and somehow we dodged it, time and time again. Our rent kept going up though. The people that come through our doors are all stripes of queermos – a demographic that is increasingly being pushed out of a ridiculously priced city, yet the remaining creatures of night kept coming to our little hole in the wall. Then, COVID happened.

“The short-term financial hit of the place being closed is obvious. The future is harder. We are a small, cramped bar. Some hate it, it’s also what some of us like about it. Now it’s a big hurdle. Folks aren’t going to return to the hip to hip, ass to ass days we once knew. At least for not quite some time.”

Owner Lynn Macneill told CBC, “I’m very sure it wouldn’t have closed if the virus hadn’t hit us in the way that it has.”

Boom!, Fredericton

 

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Another Canadian staple, Boom! had been operating in Fredericton, New Brunswick, for the past 15 years and was the city’s only surviving LGBTQ club. It posted a message to its (now deleted) Facebook page at the end of June, stating: “It has been 105 days since we were forced to close our doors ‪on March 13th‬ due to COVID-19, and during that time we were left not knowing when, or if, we would be permitted to reopen or to what capacity … Unfortunately, with the new limitations, the past and future loss is too great.”

Related: Stonewall Inn launches crowdfunder to avoid shuttering

Sadly, as Government-backed business assistance schemes come to an end, this list is likely to grow longer over the coming months.

UPDATE: This article was updated to include Badlands, San Francisco on 31 July 2020, and will be updated to include news of more closures as they emerge.