Struggling to survive amid the Corona-virus pandemic, iconic LGBTQI+ hangout Akbar took to a fundraising page to ask for help.
Almost overnight, with the help of social media, the page raised more than the necessary $150,000 to help save the Silver Lake bar.
Owners Scott Craig and Peter Alexander opened Akbar on New Year’s Eve in 1996. Both met as self-described young punks thriving in LA’s 80s underground club scene and bought one of the last remaining gay bars in the area, despite not having any experience.
The 24-year-old bar has been closed since March, when Los Angeles County implemented its first stay-at-home order to curb the spread of Corona-virus.
“Since then there has been NO relief for monthly mortgage payments,” the fundraising page says. “We’re asking today for your support to keep Akbar from permanently closing.”
Alexander believes the entire hospitality industry, from bars and clubs to restaurants and small venues, needs federally-backed mortgage assistance. “That would ease the grip around our throats a lot,” says Alexander. “How about we don’t pay it back for the next six months, and tack it onto the end of the loan? People are dying by the hundreds of thousands, but the banks aren’t doing a goddamn thing except lend money. Shame on the government for not helping.”
The owners pleaded with patrons and fans, saying they would not be able to survive the winter without help. They indicated that the money raised will pay back the small business loan needed to cover expenses while the location remains closed.
Akbar, located at 4356 Sunset Blvd., has been home to queer culture and nightlife and has also hosted drag shows, stand-up comedy and cabaret, according to the owners.
Over the decades, many have come to see Akbar as a safe space, a communal living room, performance den, or meeting place for when things get hard personally or politically. “It’s home for a lot of people,” says Alexander.
Like most bars throughout Los Angeles, Akbar has struggled during the pandemic. The state has at various points mandated that bars temporarily close, reopen, then close again, all without a financial safety net. At least Craig and Alexander are in a unique position with Akbar, because they own the building.
Over the last nine months many of West Hollywood’s longstanding queer bars battled with landlords and have fought to survive, they’ve also been spared the worst of it all. Bars and nightclubs across the city including Rage, Flaming Saddles, Gold Coast, and Gym Bar have all closed permanently already.
Since the page went up, it has raised over $200,000 of its $250,000 goal.
Alexander is in a state of shock. “We’re as high as kites over here,” he said when reached by phone. The amount of money is staggering enough, but so is the show of immediate support. “LA Magazine just went ahead and published their story and things started happening. We’re so humbled and awed by the response.”
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