The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, in partnership with cable television network Showtime, has awarded As You Are, the Capitol Hill-based LGBTQ cafe, bar, and dance boutique, a $10,000 grant through its “Queer to Stay” small business support initiative.
The “Queer to Stay” initiative — launched in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when many small businesses were floundering — is intended to support small businesses that cater to or are run by LGBTQ people of color, women, and transgender individuals throughout the United States.
In its first two years, “Queer to Stay” awarded grants to 30 different LGBTQ-owned businesses to help them remain afloat during economically troublesome times. This year, the initiative is aiding 25 businesses, with each awardee receiving $10,000 in grant money.
“This year, on top of economic setbacks from COVID, we’ve seen a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and attacks, including harm to some LGBTQ+ small businesses,” Kelley Robinson, the newly-appointed president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “That’s why it’s critical to uphold affirming, welcoming spaces and services for our LGBTQ+ communities.
“This initiative celebrates and supports our community by putting funds directly into the hands of multiply marginalized LGBTQ+ owned, and serving, small businesses around the country. We’re excited to partner with Showtime once again to ensure that LGBTQ+ patrons, employees, and business owners continue to occupy spaces freely and without exception as their authentic selves.”
According to a report from the Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement and Research, working in conjunction with the Movement Advancement Project, based on data from the Federal Reserve Banks’ annual Small Business Credit Survey, LGBTQ-owned businesses were less likely to receive COVID-19 relief loans, despite being as likely as non-LGBTQ businesses to submit applications for such loans.
The report also found that LGBTQ businesses were more likely to have been negatively financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 61% of LGBTQ businesses reporting financial losses in 2020, compared to 48% of non-LGBTQ businesses. That disparity continued into 2021, with 85% of LGBTQ businesses reporting that the pandemic was having a negative effect on their business, compared to 76% of non-LGBTQ businesses.
The grant money is intended to alleviate some of that financial strain for those recipients honored by the “Queer to Stay” initiative.
Showtime, the channel that is home to The L Word: Generation Q, the returning series based on the early 2000s original drama series The L Word, has partnered with HRC to provide the grants.
“Supporting LGBTQ+ businesses combined with all the LGBTQ+ representation in SHOWTIME programming, ‘Queer to Stay’ has made a major impact all over the country,” actor Jamie Clayton said in a statement. “I’m honored to star on a show that depicts a vital LGBTQ+ small business on television. Playing Tess, who manages the inclusive, queer space, Dana’s Bar, on The L Word: Generation Q is such an exciting and vital thrill!”
As You Are co-founders Jo McDaniel and Rach Pike have said they plan to use the grant money to make the cafe and bar more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation for programming, and provide masks to patrons to help protect them from various respiratory illnesses.
“We opened this business because we wanted to queer the gay bar agenda,” McDaniel and Pike said in a statement. “We wanted to see a space that was not majority cis, white, or male. We wanted to partner with the community to create a space that felt truly inviting to all queers. We envisioned a set of standards that prioritized the most marginalized communities within this already marginalized community. We wanted to commit to adapting AYA as the needs of the community grow and we want to be accountable to upholding these commitments.”
Other recipients of “Queer to Stay” grants include Dorothy Downstairs, a lesbian cocktail lounge in Chicago; Three Palms Bar & Grill in New Orleans; Bake Me Happy, a Columbus, Ohio-based gluten-free bakery; the Houston-based Queer Therapy Network, which seeks to connect LGBTQ people with gender-affirming mental health services; Franny Lou’s Porch, a Philadelphia-based LGBTQ-welcoming cafe that doubles as a gathering space for the Black community; and M-Care, a Wichita, Kansas-based community health care center specializing in LGBTQ-affirming health care.
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