As You Are, a queer bar, café, and dance boutique in D.C.’s Barracks Row neighborhood, has successfully raised over $156,000 through a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. The amount exceeds the $150,000 goal set by the bar’s owners.
Co-owner Rach “Coach” Pike told Axios that the space, which opened fewer than two years ago, is in debt due to slow business during the winter months, increased operational costs, and an expensive lease.
“We need to get over this hump and out of debt, or we’ll be put out of business,” Pike said.
The funds raised through the GoFundMe campaign will be used to pay rent and back taxes, allowing the bar to qualify for community grants under the District’s “Clean Hands” mandate.
“We have faced some particularly tall and costly hurdles that have set us back significantly since the beginning,” Pike wrote on the GoFundMe page. “As we are tapping every resource we can imagine with creativity and open minds, we need urgent assistance…. [T]he funds raised will be applied immediately to saving AYA from closure.”
The campaign was launched earlier this week. So far, more than 2,900 individual donors have contributed.
As Axios notes, As You Are previously faced significant obstacles to opening due to social distancing restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and a lengthy process of negotiating a settlement agreement with its local Advisory Neighborhood Commission — which establishments serving alcohol are not required to enter under city regulations, but often do in order to extend an olive branch to their soon-to-be neighbors.
While negotiating the settlement agreement, local neighborhood leaders raised several objections or concerns about how the bar would mitigate noise, avoid disturbing nearby residents, maintain the property in good condition, and implement security plans to reduce instances of loitering, drunken behavior, or possible disturbances.
Despite being more than accommodating and engaging with those neighbors about their concerns, As You Are was financially impacted by the delay in getting that settlement agreement approved, and by the general drop-off in business that occurred at the height of the pandemic, which impacted many D.C. establishments.
As You Are’s niche is unique due to its status — and marketing — as a queer-affirming space at a time when queer bars across the nation have struggled to stay open.
According to the Lesbian Bar Project, there are fewer than 30 lesbian-centric bars or nightclubs remaining in the United States. Understandably, then, there are plenty of people — not only in D.C., but nationwide — willing to contribute to keep such a space up and running.
Pike told Axios they’re “shocked” by the outpouring of support from the LGBTQ community. “The queer community never surprises me, but it blows me away every time,” she said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly summarized the nature of settlement agreements. Under District regulations, no alcohol-licensed business is under any obligation to enter a settlement agreement. If a venue refuses to sign a proposed settlement agreement, the parties involved may bring the disagreement before the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board for adjudication.
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