The Tenderloin's last remaining LGBTQ bar, Aunt Charlie's Lounge, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $100,000 to save itself from going under in the next two months.
"After the [shelter-in-place order in March], the bar’s owner applied for a PPP loan and received only a fraction of the requested funds because the business is just 'too small,'" a group of fundraisers explain on GoFundMe. "He has been paying rent and utilities out of his own pocket. All money raised will go towards direct business expenses: rent, utilities, and operations."
The bar is facing imminent closure on August 1, they say, unless the money can be raised to save it.
As of now, bars like Aunt Charlie's won't even be allowed to reopen for customers until August 15, and even then at limited capacity.
Aunt Charlie's has been the home of a popular weekend drag show called The Hot Boxxx Girls for over two decades, as well as a Thursday night party called Tubesteak Connection, and a youthful drag night on Tuesdays called Angels. The bar has existed under the same name since 1987, and the fundraisers say that "It is one of the few LGBTQ+ spaces open 365 days a year" in the city.
Previously, it was a bar known The Queen Mary, and it changed names when current owner Bill Erkelens took over. And for decades this space has been both a safe haven for queer people in a rough neighborhood, as well as a vestige of a time when queer and trans bars dotted the area as well as Polk Street.
"At a moment when historical queer spaces are closing, reach into your pockets to Save Aunt Charlie’s!" the fundraisers say. "Contribute whatever you can—no amount is too little."
So far the campaign has raised $15,000 of its $100,000 goal.