Crowdfunding saves legendary Stonewall Inn from pandemic closure

A crowdfunding campaign has saved the Stonewall Inn from closure on the 51st anniversary of the riots that made it famous around the world.

The New York bar looks on to the Stonewall National Monument – but it doesn’t get any federal funding.

And with the coronavirus temporarily closing all venues, its future was in jeopardy. The bar’s rent alone is over $40,000 a month, while it also faces insurance and other operating costs.

So the ‘struggling’ inn launched a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe with a goal to raise $100,000. This, co-owner Stacy Lentz told CNN was just enough to get the business out of the red.

But now generous donors have donated $129,000 and counting.

The Stonewall Inn’s history and future

This Sunday 28 June will mark the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. They started when patrons and street kids who hung around outside the bar resisted a police raid on the premises.

But while the riots would eventually make the Stonewall Inn the most famous LGBT+ venue in the world, securing its legacy hasn’t always been easy.

Last year, in the run up to the 50th anniversary, GSN published a series of 50 articles looking at that legacy. We chose a diverse range of voices, including people who were there on that fateful night. 

Many complained that people had attempted to whitewash Stonewall’s history, leaving out people of color from the story.

Moreover, the bar’s survival as a business has never been certain either. Many people don’t know that shortly after the uprising, the bar closed and the building became a bagel shop, Chinese restaurant and shoe shop.

‘Keepers of history’

But writing about the anniversary for GSN last year, co-owner Stacy Lentz explained why it continues to be important that it works as a bar – not just a monument. She described it as much as a community center as a bar.

She said: ‘It has become a place where people come to celebrate the victories of our community. Sadly, it is where they come to mourn our losses as well.

‘The Stonewall staff know that they are the inn’s keepers of history and take pride in making sure everyone who walks in has a good time.

‘They take the time to connect to the community members as well as with tourists from all over the world.’

Right now, the bar has been serving drinks to patrons through a window. However, that’s not enough to pay the bills. But the funding boost will hopefully mean the staff can now look forward to the time they can re-open fully and keep a vital part of our history alive a little longer.

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