NBC News

BLACK OWNED GAY BARS ARE DWINDLING. CAN THEY SURVIVE COVID? The coronavirus pandemic is just one of many headwinds facing the few remaining Black-owned LGBTQ bars across the country.

When Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon began making plans in 2018 to open their own gay bar in New York’s historic Harlem neighborhood, they had no idea a pandemic would shut them down before they even opened. “The first thing we thought was, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re going to be out of business before we started this business,’” Hughes, 39, told NBC News.

But a global health crisis is not the only headwind their bar, Lambda Lounge, and the few remaining Black-owned gay bars in the United States are facing. Long before anyone had heard of Covid-19, these LGBTQ social spaces were dwindling across the country.

For more than two decades, gay bars, especially those owned by people of color, have been disappearing. … The closures have had a disproportionate impact on bars catering to women and people of color: Between 2007 and 2019, LGBTQ bar listings dropped by an estimated 37 percent, and those serving people of color plummeted by almost 60 percent, according to the study.

Though the reasons are not entirely clear, experts suspect the overall decline in gay bars is related to decades of skyrocketing rents and gentrification, which have disproportionately impacted small, Black-owned businesses; the emergence of online dating sites and apps; and circuit parties that rotate among venues, which have become increasingly popular among younger crowds.

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