New Yorkers have donated thousands of dollars to keep Manhattan's last Black-owned gay bar afloat.
Alibi Lounge in Harlem is owned and operated by Alexi Minko, an immigrant from Gabon who employees Black and Latinx LGBTQ young people in his community and provides them with hospitality career training in association with Strive International. As of 2019, the queer watering hole is the last-remaining Black-owned business of its kind in the entire borough.
But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Alibi to close its doors for "almost four months," prompting Minko to launch a GoFundMe to continue paying his workers.
Minko said he has yet to receive any assistance from the government to keep his small business afloat amid the pandemic.
"Please help us continue to provide a safe, fun, and open space for all in Harlem, especially our LGBTQ brothers and sisters," he wrote. "Please help us keep our rainbow flag flying high until this pandemic ends."
At the time of writing, New Yorkers have raised almost $34,000 out of Minko's $50,000 goal.
Running a queer bar in NYC is not without its "trials and tribulations": As NewNowNext reported last July, Alibi was targeted by homophobic vandals who burned down the bar's LGBTQ Pride flag not once but twice. The arsonist was eventually arrested.
Speaking to NewNowNext columnist Michael Musto in 2019, Minko recalled a straight elderly couple stopping by Alibi shortly after the back-to-back incidents.
"They were in their 80s," Minko said. "She had heard about what had happened and had never known there was a gay bar here. She said, 'We have to support this place.'"
"In Harlem, especially if it’s a Black-owned business, even if [community members] don’t share your views, there’s something about protecting each other around here," he added. "For this to happen twice, people are outraged. People do not want the image to be, 'Well, it’s Harlem. It’s a Black neighborhood.' They are adamant that it’s Harlem and people won’t stand for it. Committing a crime motivated by hate is not a reflection of this neighborhood at all."
Minko said the bar was targeted again "earlier this month," when its cash register was broken into.
"We carried on despite adversity, exhaustion, and financial difficulties relating to COVID-19, to remain open for almost four years," he wrote. "Today, we need your help."