The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the city’s LBGTQ bars particularly hard. Almost overnight, the crowded, sweaty community gatherings at raucous dance parties that also served as the city’s hubs for music and culture were put to an end by a virus. Many drag queens — a major draw at several LGBTQ bars — were forced to take their shows online.
But one Brooklyn bar is bucking that trend.
Since November, popular Williamsburg queer bar the Rosemont — primarily known for its drag shows and packed dance parties prior to the pandemic — has offered weekend food and drinks delivery service accompanied by performances by one of its resident queens, Magenta.
Magenta and bar manager Troy Carson use Carson’s jeep to make deliveries on Fridays and Saturdays each week from 7 to 10 p.m. They typically complete two or three stops — which consists of a 5- to 10-minute show per drop off — each night. The number of orders has been gradually increasing with every passing week, sometimes up to five stops per night, says the bar’s other manager Kelly Gorman.
Carson and Gorman came up with the idea last fall when it became apparent that business would slow down between colder weather keeping more people at home and another indoor dining ban following the rise in COVID-19 cases. The Rosemont attempted to put on some drag shows over the summer, but Gorman says they weren’t as popular as planned, perhaps because many Rosemont regulars were choosing to stay home due to safety concerns. That’s when the duo decided to bring the party to customers — on their sidewalks.
“We thought about how we could bring a piece of the Rosemont to people and keep it safe at the same time,” says Gorman. “We wanted to make it fun and unique.”
With bars allowed to sell alcohol to go, the Rosemont added a minimal menu of hot dogs and noodles to allow them to meet the state’s requirements for alcohol delivery. The minimum orders are $40 in Brooklyn and $60 in Manhattan. The bar doesn’t have a formal delivery zone in the city, and the bar’s Instagram DMs are open for drop off requests.
The deliveries started slow last fall, but through word of mouth and social media, news of the shows spread, and Gorman says in some cases they had to turn down customers because they couldn’t accommodate all the shows in one weekend. The Rosemont is at least the second NYC establishment to start a drag delivery service after Astoria Mexican restaurant Fresco’s Cantina did so last summer. Together with the limited business the bar has generated in the winter months, Gorman says the drag delivery service has been essential to keeping the Rosemont afloat.
“Especially on nights when it is bad weather, that will definitely make up for some of our sluggish business at the bar,” says Gorman.
Pre-pandemic, the Rosemont hosted between 20 to 30 drag queens every week. And while that’s no longer feasible due to the dramatic drop in business and safety concerns, Magenta’s show still helps keep a piece of the Rosemont alive throughout Brooklyn, and has even introduced the bar to a host of new fans who weren’t familiar with it pre-pandemic, says Gorman.
For Magenta, the shows provide a sliver of normalcy during an uncertain, difficult time. “I get to put a smile on people’s face even though it’s really tough for everyone right now,” she says. Drop offs usually happen in front of customers’ apartment building and videos of Magenta’s performances show customers typically drinking and dancing along as Magenta sashays to songs by Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and others.
Even though the performances last only five to 10 minutes, Magenta says she puts on a show just as if it was taking place in a bar. “The reason you booked me is because you missed the show,” says Magenta, referring to the performances at the Rosemont. “That’s important to the experience. It has to convey that same essence.”
The Rosemont is sticking to the current schedule for now, but hasn’t ruled out adding more days in the near future should the demand grow further — and if they can secure another vehicle. Magenta says she’s eager to get back to some sense of normal, to return to bars again, to perform there again, but she’s not opposed to drag delivery continuing after the pandemic is over. “I’m not opposed,” she says. “It could be a once in a blue moon moment.”