One of NYC’s last black-owned LGBTQ bar is in danger of closing permanently. Harlem’s Alibi Lounge, on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard, near West 139th Street, has struggled to make payments for rent and utilities since the start of the pandemic, and owner Alexi Minko says he’s afraid the bar will shutdown without financial help.
“If Alibi goes away, it will be a tragedy for the LGBTQ community uptown,” says Minko, adding that his bar is one of the only — if not only — LGBTQ spaces in northern Manhattan.
Over the weekend, several of his customers and others in the neighborhood helped him start a GoFundMe campaign for $50,000, to meet most of the bar’s financial needs for the next six months, Minko says. As of Monday, the fundraiser had generated nearly $11,000 of its goal, and Minko says he’s been “humbled and overwhelmed” by the support so far, which has come from both locals and people all over the city.
“You guys are a unique, historic, and irreplaceable neighborhood bar,” writes Michael Galletta, on the fundraiser’s page. “Hope you can weather this storm!”
Alibi temporarily shutdown on March 16 following the state’s COVID-related restrictions. Minko only reopened for takeout in mid-May, for two days a week, he says. Now, he has a series of required payments, including a liquor license renewal, state taxes, and rent for the month of July. Though he’s been approved for a federal small business loan, he’s concerned that he won’t be able to get forgiveness and will have an additional financial burden.
The bar opened in June 2016 and became one of just a tiny group of black-owned LGBTQ spaces in the city. One of NYC’s last black-owned LGBTQ bars, Club Langston, at the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, closed last year, after a nearly 20-year run. Last year, Alibi Lounge, was the site of a suspected hate crime when some rainbow flags were set on fire outside the bar, which has reaffirmed Minko’s belief to continue to offer people in the community a safe space.
“It hasn’t been all rainbows all the time,” says Minko. “But if we reach the fundraising goal, it will be a huge boost and a huge relief. I’m confident it will help us for the next six months.”