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What We’re Losing If More LGBTQ Nightlife Spaces Close

A sign outside of a bar looks to draw customers in Manhattan in New York City.
A sign outside of a bar looks to draw customers in Manhattan in New York City.

Many bars, clubs and restaurants have had a difficult time staying afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. And this can be a problem for LGBTQ people that rally around these spaces as ways to bring people together. More than a few cultural staples that have long served these communities have closed over the course of the pandemic.

Some owners have turned to crowdfunding websites and asked their communities to help them stay open. But saving these locations could be difficult when some were already at risk before the pandemic.

The Atlantic published a piece about the historical significance of LGBTQ nightlife:

Many historians trace modern notions of homosexual identity back to cabarets and speakeasies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Drag took root in dives and dance halls. Stonewall was a bar before it was a synecdoche for gay liberation. AIDS activists funded themselves with fabulous dance galas. In recent years, queer bars have been closing in greater numbers because of assimilation, gentrification, and dating apps. (A Bloombergstory on the state of the gay bar suggests that the number of such venues in the U.S. fell from about 2,500 in 1976 to fewer than 1,400 in 2019.) But queer nightlife still thrives in standing parties whose varieties include expensive, ticketed mega events and DJ sets at small, off-the-grid venues.

What can be done to protect these spaces going forward? And what do these spaces mean for the people they serve?

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5

Kathryn Fink

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