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NYC's Stonewall Inn vows post-COVID comeback during Pride Month: ‘This is the gay church’

·3 min read

Over 5 decades ago, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City Greenwich Village. The events that followed fueled the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (LGBTQ+) rights moment.

And as the Big Apple was walloped last year by the COVID-19 pandemic, the historic club — like many other small business and cultural mainstays in the city — found itself in dire financial straits.

Currently, New York City is in the midst of a revival, and celebrating Pride Month. Yet back in 2020, the iconic Stonewall, which welcomes patrons from across the globe who honor the rebellion’s legacy, was facing a very different reality.

“Financially, [COVID-19] just devastated us,” Kurt Kelly, owner of The Stonewall Inn and Co-founder of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative told Yahoo Finance Live in a recent interview.

“Luckily, we’re the Stonewall Inn and the community is behind us, and they helped us out,” he added.

The coronavirus pandemic made it very difficult for countless bars to survive. However, there’s hope on the horizon for these long-time draws as New York reopens.

The city’s famed Pride Parade will be mostly virtual this year, but the Stonewall’s owners emphasized New York City’s revival — and the central role the bar has played in the LBGTQ+ movement.

This year’s official theme is billed as “The Fight Continues,” both a nod to lesbian, gay and trans rights, and the city’s ongoing rebound from the pandemic.

“We're excited to welcome everybody back and have everybody out there celebrating Pride again,” Stacy Lentz, CEO of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative and co-owner of The Stonewall Inn, told Yahoo Finance.

'The gay church'

People wearing protective masks walk past the closed Stonewall Inn, after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a watershed victory for LGBT rights, in New York City, U.S., June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
People wearing protective masks walk past the closed Stonewall Inn, after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a watershed victory for LGBT rights, in New York City, U.S., June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Still, there’s a grim reality that many small business owners are having a difficult time getting back to business as it was before the pandemic. Indeed, the Stonewall Inn has been in survival mode for much of the past year.

The landmark bar was forced to close shop during the pandemic, and subsequently fell behind in rent. With the help of government assistance and generous donations, they were able to get back on their feet.

“We're going to survive,” Kelly said, vowing to “continue on forever. We got to keep the place open. This is the gay church.”

Earlier this month, the Stonewall Inn kicked off Pride month, with a star-studded virtual concert to benefit The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Safe Spaces Initiatives, which helps identify and designate entertainment venues, food and beverage locations, and other businesses as safe places for the LGBTQ+ community.

They are asking restaurants, businesses, public venues that put up a rainbow sticker during pride month “to prove it” that they are in fact a safe place. The initiative comes as ethnic and gender equality become a bigger focus for businesses.

“We’re going to really kind of hold their feet to the fire to make sure that corporations say they support us,” Lentz told Yahoo Finance.

“We can use corporations to the advancement of our community, but we’ve got to make sure that they’re not just virtually signaling during pride month, but they’re actually doing the work 365 days a year,” she added.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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