Iconic LA Gay Bar Turns to GoFundMe to Stave Off Closure

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday December 15, 2020

Akbar, the iconic LGBTQ bar opened by Scott Craig and Peter Alexander in 1996, is in danger of going under, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. The owners have turned to GoFundMe to stop that from happening, reports Los Angeles Magazine.

The bar's straits are ironic, considering that, as Los Angeles Magazine recalls, LGBTQ establishments in Silverlake, the east-central Los Angeles neighborhood where Akbar is located, had been ravaged by another pandemic, AIDS, in the 1980s and '90s. The neighborhood's one remaining gay bar was closing don when Craig and Alexander "scraped together money from friends and supporters to buy the business and reopen as Akbar on New Years Eve, 1996," the magazine recounted.

"Since then, Akbar has been a valuable alternative to the branded Queer culture & nightlife of Los Angeles, a Silver Lake community clubhouse that has fostered everything from performance art, drag shows, stand-up comedy, craft nights, cabaret, karaoke and dancing," reads text at the GoFundMe page that Alexander has set up.

"It has been a labor of love born from grief and need of community," given that the AIDS pandemic "led to the loss of safe spaces and the gutting of the LA Queer community" before the bar was opened, the text adds.

Though Akbar has flourished for more than two decades, it might not survive its current challenges.

"Los Angeles County mandated that we shut our doors in March due to Covid-19, and since then there has been NO relief for monthly mortgage payments," text at the page reads. "We're asking today for your support to keep Akbar from permanently closing."

Adds the page's plea: "We know you cherish the sense of community that Akbar has fostered — the wild nights, the connections, the celebrations of joy, shared grief, the communion we aspire to provide — please give generously to our fund.

"The money raised will pay back the $150K small business loan we needed to cover expenses while the bar is required to be closed, and to help us get through a lean 2021."

LGBTQ establishments in L.A. have been hard hit by the COVID crisis. Los Angeles Magazine recalled that "Already in 2020, L.A.'s queer scene has lost Rage Nightclub, Flaming Saddles, Gym Sportsbar, and East Hollywood coffee shop Cuties.

"Fubar in West Hollywood and Frat House in Garden Grove have, like Akbar, turned to GoFundMe asking for support for their businesses and staffs."

Akbar's owners are seeking $150,000. As of midmorning on Dec. 15, Akbar's GoFundMe page had racked up $115,525 in donations over six days, with 1,780 people contributing.

"We can't wait to be there for you on the other side of this pandemic. We miss you," Alexander posted at the GoFundMe page. "Please help if you can."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.