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Akbar launches GoFundMe to save Silver Lake queer bar

Akbar Silver Lake

The exterior of Akbar in Silver Lake is seen in this July 23 photo. Photo: Richard Grant/Q Voice News.

SILVER LAKE — Patrons of Akbar, the renowned Silver Lake gay bar, have raised more than $165,000 on its GoFundMe campaign to save the queer space.

More than $150,000 was raised 24 hours after a GoFundMe campaign was launched Monday, and as a result, the goal was increased to $250,000.

“We were unsure when we launched Akbar’s GoFundMe if we would ever raise enough money to get out of debt and pay back our small business loan,” Akbar co-owner Peter Alexander said in a post on the GoFundMe campaign page.

“We cannot believe the tremendous outpouring of community support, raising $150K in under 24 hours,” Alexander said. “We appreciate every dollar, every share, and especially all of your heartwarming messages about what Akbar means to you.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated queer nightlife in Los Angeles. Several longtime safe places have permanently shuttered amid the prolonged closures of bars and nightclubs.

Here are the other LGBTQ spaces that have closed.

Akbar, which opened New Year’s Eve 1996, is at risk of permanently closing. All bars were forced to close in March by a Los Angeles County mandate due to COVID-19. Akbar opened for a short time when the county allowed bars with the space to serve food outdoors to re-open.

But, the bars were forced to close again last month when the county passed another mandate that banned outdoor dining.

During this financially challenging time, Akbar received no relief for their monthly mortgage payments, Alexander said.

Akbar will use the $150,000 to retire their small business loan that covered expenses while the bar was forced to be closed.

The extra $100,000 will be used to pay the bar’s operating expenses (payroll, vendors, taxes, permits, utilities, among other costs) until enough people get vaccinated and bars are allowed to open at full capacity, which might not happen until late summer of 2021.

Akbar was born out of grief.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Scott Craig and Peter Alexander witnessed the AIDS-related destruction of their community, friends, and loved ones. That health crisis led to the loss of safe spaces and the gutting Los Angeles’ queer community.

When one of Silver Lake’s remaining gay bars was up for sale Craig and Alexander took matters into their own hands. They had no prior hospitality experience, but borrowed money from friends and family and opened the bar on Dec. 31, 1996.

Since then, Akbar has been an alternative to WeHo nightlife. It’s a Silver Lake community clubhouse that has fostered everything from performance art, drag shows, stand-up comedy, to craft nights, cabaret, karaoke, and dancing.

“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,” Alexander said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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