LGBTQ bars fight to stay open during pandemic, turn to loans and GoFundMe for help

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Flaming Saddles in West Hollywood was often packed before the coronavirus pandemic. It closed permanently in 2020. Photo courtesy of Chris Barnes.

As LA’s queer community grapples with the closures of popular bars like Rage, Oil Can Harry’s and Flaming Saddles, other bars are struggling to keep the lights on. 

In downtown LA, Oliver Alpuche has taken out new loans to pay for overhead expenses of his bar Redline. He owes at least $80,000 in back rent, as well as thousands in other bills.

“I’m at the point, 10 months into this pandemic, to truthfully say I'm not okay. How can you be okay when you literally have been stuck in the rubble of a collapse, and there’s no end in the sight?” Alpuche says. 

In Silver Lake, The Eagle LA has been closed since mid-March. The co-owners are relying on unemployment, plus Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.

“We're always been the one throwing the party or setting up the fundraiser or making it go. And to suddenly just have that switched off, it feels very powerless,” says Charlie Matula, owner of The Eagle LA.