The Good Fight

NYC’s last Black-owned gay bar fights for survival

Alibi Lounge/Alexi Minko via GoFundMe

Alexi Minko, owner of Alibi Lounge, reportedly the last gay bar in New York run by a Black owner, is asking for help to prevent the permanent closure of the bar.

Minko opened Alibi Lounge in Harlem back in 2016. “I fell in love with my neighborhood. I fell in love with my street,” Minko tells Now This. “[But] I walked about 20, 30, blocks, and I didn’t see anything that represented the LGBT image whatsoever.”

Alibi fixed that inclusion problem. Minko created a venue where New Yorkers could feel “automatically accepted, understood, and embraced.”

With the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, Minko had to close the bar for what he hoped would be a temporary period. He managed to secure a government loan, which, in New York City, couldn’t cover the bills for long.

“All of a sudden, we had no revenue, no income, no activity, and unfortunately, it put a dent on something that was already very precarious,” Minko says. “Running a small business, especially like a bar/restaurant, it’s a lot of work for no money.”

Related: Stonewall Inn lands $250,000 donation to avoid permanent closure

The toll of the coronavirus has, of course, spread all over the world, with major retailers like JC Penny and Pier 1 Imports shutting down for good. Establishments catering to and LGBTQ crowd have been especially hard hit. Across New York, the historic Stonewall Inn has launched crowdfunding efforts to stay afloat.

Minko has done the same for Alibi. He far exceeded his $6,000 goal, raking in a whopping $50,000. The extended campaign has brought in more than $118,000 to help cover expenses. Alibi has also reopened as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, offering snacks and takeout drinks to patrons.

Still, with states such as California and Georgia reinstating restrictions, the future is still uncertain for LGBTQ venues like Alibi. For Alexi Minko, however, the reward is worth the fight.

“We want to have places where we feel like we can identify with the culture, with the atmosphere, with the sound, with the lights, with the music, with the people that go to these places,” he says. “[The community is] telling you: you are responsible for making sure that the doors remain open.”