Watch: Buffalo's Oldest Gay Club to Close -- Where Was its COVID Relief?

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday December 23, 2020

The oldest gay bar in Buffalo, NY, may have to close down for good after being denied federal COVID-19 relief money being distributed by the county, in the form of grants, despite minority business owners reportedly being given priority, reports local news channel WGRZ.

The Underground, which has served Buffalo's LGBTQ community since 1974, did not receive a share of the $20 million that Erie County distributed through the "Back to Business" grants program.

Owner Nicholas Tiede had thought he might have a shot at a grant, given that County Executive Mark Poloncarz had "stressed that minority-owned businesses would be given priority in the grant program," reported WGRZ. But no such luck: This month Tiede learned that "he was turned down for a grant," the news station said.

"I was kind of surprised how limited the application was," Tiede told WGRZ, going on to add, "On the application there wasn't anything for people who were [part of the] LGBTQ community, so I kind of felt we were left out of that part." The report said Tiede "thinks the application process was flawed."

"It felt like maybe a lottery," Tiede said.

The article said that the news station had attempted to contact Poloncarz's office and program administrator 43North. "We wanted to know if minority ownership included members of the LGBTQ+ community," the news channel report said.

They got no response. Meantime, WGRZ said, Tiede is spending his own money - to the tune of $5,000 each month - in a bid to keep the bar in business. He's also set up a GoFundMe page to help.

"We have been proud to create an important safe space for our community and allies as well as working with organizations in our community to give back in fundraising efforts," text at the GoFundMe page reads.

"We understand many are affected by this pandemic and we do not expect anything however any help to lighten this burden would be greatly appreciated and help this establishment survive and continue to be able to provide a safe space to our community."

Indeed, if prospects don't brighten soon, the news report said, Tiede may have to close the bar for good.

According to Erie Country officials, some 5,000 small businesses applied for the grants, but only about 1,400 received money, reported local news channel WIVB. The emphasis on minority business owners left some "suspicious," WIVB reported.

"I am just not understanding how they asked the questions about what is your race, what your ethnicity is, things of that nature," Exit Two Bar and Grill owner Lisa Galus told WIVB.

WRGZ noted that "a report detailing how the Back to Business program was run is due out between Christmas and New Year's Day."

Watch the WGRZ news clip below.

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.

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