I posted about Alexi Minko’s Alibi Lounge in Harlem back in July and how crowdfunding was helping to save his bar.
Alibi Lounge was opened in 2016 and it quickly became fixture for the LGBTQ community in Harlem. Not only is it the first LGBTQ bar in the neighborhood, but Minko is one of just a few Black gay bar owners in the entire tri-state area.
Like other small businesses across the country, the bar was hit hard by the pandemic and he’s had to shut the bar for months.
The Alibi Lounge has reopened operating on reduced hours and with only 25% capacity indoors. Minko told CNN,
“Our revenue’s gone down. I’ve talked to other small business owners, and some of them have just decided to quit.”
“The honest truth is that there’s a lot of that added pressure. The Alibi is like a beacon of hope…
…if I close it, then where do the LGBTQ people in my community go? It’s heartbreaking.”
Gay and lesbian bars of course have held particular importance in LGBTQ history and are often used for organizing and activist events.
Eric Gonzaba, an American studies professor at California State University at Fullerton, told CNN,
“We often forget that even same-sex dancing was illegal up until the ’60s or ’70s.
These were once the only places where so-called ‘immoral content’ was allowed.”
We should be fearful of losing that kind of community factor.”
The answer to why so many of these bars have closed is more complicated than walking indoors during a pandemic. The LGBTQ community has found a home online and he proliferation of dating/hook-up apps as well as LGBTQ influencers, TikTok, Instagram, etc has changed how users interact.
Japonica Brown-Saracino, a sociology professor at Boston University points out these interactions aren’t the same.
“I don’t think they’re equivalent, although these apps can bring connection through queer attachment.
But in my research, there is this desire for being in a room. Dating apps can also lead to engaging only with people that are closer in age to you. There’s not that opportunity to have intergenerational and other unexpected connections.”
But Gonzaba said he is optimistic about the future of bars,
“I think it’s totally conceivable that we might see a rebirth or a renaissance once people can interact again.”
Minko, he said he’s excited to see more representation in Harlem. Another gay bar, Lambda Lounge, opened his summer under limited capacity, the second Black-owned gay bar in NYC, and another safe space in Harlem.