San Francisco has lost some long time venues during the pandemic including The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar, and business owners say more could soon follow without more help. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco has lost some long time venues during the pandemic including The Stud, The City’s oldest gay bar, and business owners say more could soon follow without more help. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

City’s nightlife recovery fund approved but struggling business owners fear relief may come too late

As San Francisco’s nightlife scene approaches nearly a year of a complete shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, city leaders recently began making strides to help the industry through a recovery fund, but business owners are worried the relief could come too late.

On Tuesday, supervisors unanimously passed legislation to create the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund on the legislation’s second reading.

Authored by Supervisor Matt Haney, the legislation aims to provide financial support for the city’s live venues and performance spaces, which have had their doors closed since March 2020.

The legislation must next be signed by Mayor London Breed.

“Saving our entertainment venues is an important part of making sure our city is going to be able to bounce back from this pandemic, and with the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund, we are giving our venues a fighting chance,” Haney said in a statement.

The legislation is backed by the San Francisco Venue Coalition and the Independent Venues Alliance, as well as the city’s Small Business Commission and the Entertainment Commission.

“Venues are the heart of our city’s culture and a cornerstone of our city’s economy, so it is wonderful to see that they are beginning to get the help and attention they deserve,” said Small Business Commission President Sharky Laguana.

Haney said his office is committed to identifying at least $1.5 million for the fund from the city’s budget. Once secured, the funds would be administered by the city’s Office of Small Business.

Because money for the fund has yet to be allocated, however, industry insiders are concerned the funds won’t reach the venues that need it the most.

“It still hasn’t’ been clearly explained to us how or when we can access the money,” said Mickey Darius, general manager of The Lost Church, a theater in the Mission District, and also an IVA member. “The city is trying but we haven’t seen anything significant.”

Oasis launched a drinks, dinner and drag delivery service as one of its revenue generating efforts. (Courtesy Gooch)

Oasis launched a drinks, dinner and drag delivery service as one of its revenue generating efforts. (Courtesy Gooch)

Although the Lost Church has managed to survive the near yearlong closure thanks to a grant from the Hellman Foundation, he said other venues haven’t been so lucky and are on the verge of permanent closure.

“We’re going to lose a handful of significant venues,” he said. “If we don’t start seeing help from our public officials or big tech investment backing us, there isn’t going to be the same cultural enrichment we had prior because we won’t have the venues.”

During the course of the pandemic, several San Francisco venues have shuttered permanently, including famed music venue Slim’s and The Stud, the city’s oldest LGBTQ venue.

To further highlight the urgency, on Wednesday SoMa hotspot Oasis announced it that it is facing imminent closure after six years of operation hosting some of the city’s most iconic queer performers.

Oasis owner and Artistic Director D’Arcy Drollinger said, “The financial situation has become dire. It literally costs us money to be open right now, due to our size and location. While bars in the Castro have foot traffic and smaller spaces, opening our roof and parklet is actually more expensive than staying closed.”

D’Arcy added, “With the help of a PPP loan, we were able to employ our staff for a short period, hire out-of-work performers, and bring some joy and sparkle to the community during this dark time. But the hard reality is that even with all we’ve done and the initial help we’ve received, the monthly costs to maintain a business like Oasis is extremely high. The second shutdown coupled with the already mounting debt has left us on the brink of financial collapse.”

The Oasis will be hosting Save The Oasis Telethon on March 6 via livestream, in an effort to drum up support to help save the business. More information about the event and how to donate can be found at https://givebutter.com/saveoasis.

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