New York: Stonewall Inn seeks help to fight closure after lockdown

The owners of New York City’s Stonewall Inn are appealing for help to save the historic LGBT+ bar from closure, after more than three months of not trading, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Greenwich Village bar that gave its name to the 1969 uprising, when its patrons fought back during a police raid, needs to raise $100,000 to stay afloat, and has drawn $30,000 since launching the online fundraiser soon after lockdown began.

The demonstrations that followed the raid are widely seen as the dawn of the modern LGBT+ rights movement, making the inn a place of pilgrimage for many in the community.

As LGBT+ people prepared to mark Pride this weekend, co-owner Stacy Lentz said the Stonewall Inn was “a living, breathing piece of history”.

Lentz said the funds raised would be used “for rent and operational expenses, basically, to keep the lights on”, adding that the bar would be able to reopen on July 6, but only at 50% occupancy.

The plight of the world-famous bar highlights the financial strain of global lockdowns on LGBT+ pubs and clubs around the world.

The pandemic could put many gay nightspots out of business, leaving their customers with fewer safe spaces to go out and express themselves freely, industry figures say.

Underscoring the Stonewall Inn’s historical significance, demonstrators have gathered outside the bar in recent weeks to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

And earlier this month, crowds waving the rainbow LGBT+ pride flag gathered at the bar to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling, making it illegal for employers to fire workers because they are transgender.

“It’s a living breathing monument and a source of inspiration,” said Paul Johnson, a sociology professor at the University of York, who specialises in sexual orientation and human rights.

“There aren’t many publicly visible things that represent that community and the struggle of that community towards achieving equality,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“The Stonewall Inn symbolises the existence of resistance against oppression and prejudice.”

The Stonewall’s problems are shared by LGBT+ community bars in other major global cities, where months-long shutdowns remain in place.

In London, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, one of Britain’s leading LGBT+ entertainment venues, has also started fundraising, since closing its doors when the country went into lockdown in March.

“We’ve lost almost 600,000 pounds ($740,000) worth of revenue and at the moment we still have our rent and other associated costs to pay at 24,000 pounds a month without any income coming in,” said James Lindsay, chief executive of the venue.

-Darnell Christie – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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