Pandemic closures are hurting gay bars, and those serving vulnerable populations may be the hardest hit

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04/16/2020

Gay bars have been shuttered by public-place closure orders during the coronavirus pandemic. In March, more than half of US states issued statewide closure orders for bars and restaurants, decimating the nightlife industry. This has left LGBT people without a place to gather in public and LGBT workers without employment. But gay bars were already closing their doors before the virus hit. Their decline began sometime around 2002 and has since accelerated. My research shows that as many as 37% of the United States’ gay bars shut down from 2007 to 2019. On the one hand, this decline can be seen as a sign of shifting attitudes toward LGBT people; on the other hand, their closure represents the loss of a vital community space. Unfortunately, gay bars in communities where they’re needed most — where they serve the most vulnerable segments of the LGBT population — will have the most difficult time rebounding from the crisis.

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