While places like the Wildrose and R Place have decided to remain open (as of now), last night both Kremwerk and Queer Bar announced that they will cease to host events—like concerts, drag shows, and parties—in light of the new social distancing rules put in place.
Queer Bar announced that shows and other events will be cancelled until further notice, but the bar will remain open Monday-Sunday with limited hours and capacity, following a strict cleaning regimen. "We hold so much love for our staff, artists and patrons, and are absolutely gutted to have to make some of these decisions," Queer Bar wrote on Instagram. "We will do our best to keep our doors open for you all, and truly appreciate your love and understanding during this time."
In a phone interview, Joey Burgess, co-owner of Queer Bar as well as The Cuff, told me that he's focusing on taking care of his gig performers and staff while working with the city and his landlord to keep the establishments upright for the foreseeable future. He told me that decisions are being made "hour by hour" and "day by day" as the situation changes, requiring him to make a "considerable" amount of temporary staff layoffs.
Despite experiencing a sharp decline in business, Burgess emphasized that he wants to create a space were people feel safe, while also taking care of his staff. When asked about how the community can best support the venue, he said to follow the local gig performers like DJs and drag queens who are regulars at Queer Bar and The Cuff and send money their way.
Kremwerk, in a statement on their Instagram, announced that both Kremwerk and the adjacent Timbre Room are fully closed this week. Management will be evaluating the situation on a weekly basis and are working on rescheduling options for cancelled shows with artists and managers. "This is a hard time for us and for all nightlife and entertainment businesses, and we want to encourage you to support local businesses, treat each other with kindness, help each other out, and remain vigilant," they wrote. "It is needed now more than ever."
In the interim, many staff members at the venues have been temporarily laid off until the club reopens. A source tells me that many of them are living paycheck-to-paycheck and have little room for a missed weekend, to say nothing of a nebulous amount of time for their place of work to be closed. I'm still waiting to hear back from Kremwerk management and will update this post when I do.
Not all queer-focused venues are slowing down their programming. Lesbian bar the Wildrose plans to keep most of their programming and nights going while sticking to the limits imposed by this new social distancing rule, hosting a (not super crowded) bingo event last night.
"We are pretty much business as usual right now," said Shelley Brothers, co-owner of the Wildrose. "We have an occupancy of 99 and we have almost 2200 square feet. So we can keep space between people. We are going to limit occupancy if it gets busy."
Despite the downturn in business, Brothers says she focused on keeping a clean space by following CDC guidelines, supporting her employees, and doing everything she can to remain open. "It’s a dire situation for small businesses right now and Capitol Hill seems to be taking a pretty big hit," she told me. "I’m not sure how it’s all going to shake out. I’d like to stay in business, but our main focus is not put anyone in danger."