Hamburger Mary’s West Hollywood, The Kitchen need help to avoid closing

Hamburger Mary's West Hollywood

Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay the debt they have accumulated during the forced shutdown during COVID-19 and to avoid closing. Photo: Facebook.

The Kitchen and Hamburger Mary’s West Hollywood have joined the growing list of Los Angeles area queer spaces that are using GoFundMe campaigns to help them survive the devastating financial havoc of being shut down during COVID-19.

“The history of our very vibrant and rich LGBTQIA community in the heart of West Hollywood and in Los Angeles as a whole is in severe danger of being erased by this horrible tragedy,” said the restaurant’s Director of Entertainment Marketing, Jewels Long Beach, the popular drag queen, who also is director of entertainment and marketing for Hamburger Mary’s.

“We hope that we can stay here as a rock for our community and as a service to our community for many years to come,” she said.

Since the state and Los Angeles County Health Department hav lifted some restrictions, both locations have re-opened with limited outdoor dining. But both businesses still have large amounts of debt to pay that have accumulated while they were forced to close during the summer and just before the holidays late last year.

Several LGBTQ bars and clubs in the Los Angeles area have closed as a result of financial hardships during the pandemic.

Also, in January, Oil Can Harry’s, the oldest gay club in Los Angeles, announced they would not re-open after the pandemic.

Oil Can Harry’s — historic 52-year-old gay club — has closed

Fred Schleicher and David LeBarron own The Kitchen. The pop and pop restaurant has served the LGBTQ community and Silver Lake neighborhood with comfort food more than 20 years.

“The first lockdown is a blur. It was hectic and panicked. Somehow we made it through, scraped by and kept our doors open. A special thanks to our regulars.

“We are on very shaky legs,” Schleicher said on their GoFundMe page. “We need our friends, queer community and foodie fans to help us.”

Indoor and outdoor dining was allowed to resume in the summer, but indoor was halted in July. Schleicher said in the campaign post that The Kitchen was able to offer a few outdoor tables and restart their famous brunch. Those options helped a bit, he said.

But, by late November, controversial restrictions were implemented that forced the end of outdoor dining, and the lockdown was “crushing” them.

Their campaign goal is $50,000 to help pay payroll, utilities, taxes, and rent, among other bills. They have raised about $50,000.

Over in West Hollywood, Hamburger Mary’s needs help, too.

Hamburger Mary’s has been located in the heart of West Hollywood since 2003 and wants to stay in business for many more years.

Hamburger Mary’s is a WeHo favorite with their charity bingo fundraisers, karaoke, drag shows, lip sync contests, trivia nights, and comedy shows.

When COVID-19 hit in March, they had to close their doors to indoor dining, which was 90% of their business.

“We did everything possible to stay in business from July – November, with the county of LA’s on and off restrictions by only being open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then moving from indoor dining to the parking lot,” according to their GoFundMe page.

The business has had to continue paying for licensing with the state and other overhead costs every month while they were closed.

Hamburger Mary’s has raised about $20,000 of a $200,000 campaign goal.

All money raised will pay incurred expenses, business loan payments, and utilities for the WeHo restaurant-bar.

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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