2020 was a collective dumpster fire of year — one trailed by the bitter ash from scorched COVID-19 hot spots. Though the Bay Area's nightlife venues continue to sit empty, the San Francisco Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) raised over $300K last year to help the workers who once filled those spaces.

When the pandemic descended with an all-consuming, deafening thud, life as we once knew it came to an ominous standstill. Storefronts closed and quickly erected walls of plywood around them; traffic slowed and streets opened up to pedestrians (a notable silver lining of the past twelve months); Bay Area museums, zoos, and galleries — like our region's schools — shuttered en masse.

That was all back in March.

Alas, it's hard to shake loose the fact that we're basically back at square one, sans a few adjustments, more than nine months later. And among the hardest-hit by the pandemic among us continue to be nightlife workers, especially those who've made San Francisco's legendary queer nightlife scene the shining beacon it's become over the past decades.

Launched in March of 2020, Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) — a regional nonprofit created by notable LGBTQ+ figures in order to raise monetary aid for the aforementioned working cohort — raised $301,601 in just nine months since its inception.

"QNF has hosted 19 online Quaran-Tea Dance events, hosted three Queer Nightlife Talks and a career development workshop, launched a DJ podcast, partnered to broadcast the Harvey Milk birthday celebration, and presented to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission," reads a recent blog post by QNF, highlighting the work the initiative did this past year.

QNF's virtual events were largely free to attend, but strongly encouraged attendees to donate toward the nonprofit's efforts to support nightlife workers. "Nothing is as important to QNF as directly assisting struggling nightlife workers," the blog post continues. "Thus far, QNF has awarded 386 grants to queer nightlife workers in need, totaling $301,601.10."

QNF has largely supported queer nightlife workers by offering single-installment grants directly to approved applicants; the average amount received by grantees ranged from as much as $2,750 to around $300 (for those with less financial burdens), funds which could be used for essential needs like rent, paying utility and cellphone bills, and insurance costs. People who "shared their talents" at QNF's long list of events this past year — many of whom were "DJs, hosts, ASL interpreters, and group facilitators" — were awarded over $8k in total.

"Let’s all hope 2021 is a better year for everyone, including queer [nightlife]," QNF adds in its most recent press release. "Have a safe New Year, and keep remembering that we will all be back on the dance floor and in our queer nightlife venues again."

Those who have the financial means (and savings safety nets already in place) can donate toward the fund at sfqueernightlifefund.org/donate; each donation is tax-deductible, as QNF is a fiscally sponsored project of the San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Though currently empty, a calendar of QNF-hosted virtual events — to soak up from the comfort of your isolated domicile — can be found here.

Related: SF Queer Nightlife Fund Launches to Bring Financial Relief to the Community

SF Queer Nightlife Fund Raises $160K, Starts Distributing Grants to Eligible Applicants

San Francisco Extends Stay-at-Home Order Indefinitely Into January

Image: Getty Images via JasonDoiy