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I finally returned to a queer club after 15 months of lockdown. As someone on the sweaty NYC dance floor spilled a drink on me, I felt at home again.

Summary List PlacementThe pandemic forced the closures of some of New York City's most beloved gay bars. Before the coronavirus pandemic upended any semblance of a going-out lifestyle, I would exclusively recommend gay bars to my friends looking for fun nights out in New York City.  Usually, we would end up somewhere in Hell's Kitchen, which is known as one of New York's most thriving gay neighborhoods because of its many gay bars and clubs. My friends and I would usually end up having a blast, and we'd dance until 3 or 4 a.m. the next morning. As a gay man, gay bars...

Moises Mendez II at The Q in New York City

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The pandemic forced the closures of some of New York City’s most beloved gay bars.

Before the coronavirus pandemic upended any semblance of a going-out lifestyle, I would exclusively recommend gay bars to my friends looking for fun nights out in New York City. 

Usually, we would end up somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen, which is known as one of New York’s most thriving gay neighborhoods because of its many gay bars and clubs. My friends and I would usually end up having a blast, and we’d dance until 3 or 4 a.m. the next morning.

As a gay man, gay bars are where I have my best nights out — and where I tend to enjoy the music the most. 

Unfortunately, once the pandemic forced bars to shut down, I was left feeling disconnected from a community of people I felt so comfortable around. 

The New York Times reported that 2,800 small businesses closed in New York City since March 1, 2020, and estimated that bars and restaurants accounted for one-third of that total.

Unfortunately, some of the city’s most beloved gay bars were also forced to shutter their dance floors and party spaces.

New York City favorites in the queer bar scene, like Therapy, Bedlam NYC, Boxers in Hell’s Kitchen, and 9th Avenue Saloon, are some of the many that fell victim to the virus’ economic impact.

During Pride Weekend, I went to the grand opening of the Q, a celebrity-backed queer bar in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City.

The Q NYC is one of many new bars opening up as New York City comes back to life. With the majority of the city’s pandemic restrictions lifted, the Q, which is backed by gay actors including Zachary Quinto, Billy Porter, and Charlie Carver, along with singer Jake Shears, according to the bar’s Instagram page, could finally open its doors.

Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I decided it was time to go partying again.

The Q NYC, the celebrity-filled dance club billed as “queer af” space in Hell’s Kitchen, opened its doors for a grand opening last Friday during Pride Weekend. (Even Frankie Grande made an appearance over the weekend.) 

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The four-level dance club had a vibe for everyone, and it was overwhelming not only to be pushed around in a packed bar but also to be in a bar again at long last. 

Within 10 minutes of walking into the bar, someone bumped into me, spilling half of my cocktail on my outfit. Nature is healing.

I arrived at the Q after a night of work as a host at a restaurant in Manhattan. Having worked in the New York City restaurant industry for five years, I’m used to going out to a bar after a night of work.  

As I checked in with the bouncers, I was slightly unnerved by the absence of vaccination record checks, though that’s not a common custom at New York bars. Still, I decided not to get too in my head about it and went inside.

I was let in through the VIP entrance, which led into a somewhat empty bar space with red leather booths on one wall, along with some hi-top tables. There was also a bar directly across from a dancing space where folks could congregate before discovering the real party upstairs.

Downstairs, it was a laid-back environment allowing groups of friends to talk. I ordered myself a tequila and pineapple juice cocktail to start the night — if you haven’t tried it, try it.

As I started venturing around and checking out the space, someone wasn’t watching where they were going and bumped into my filled-to-the-brim drink, spilling some of it on my shirt.

Nature really is healing.

The Q was filled with beautiful people, eye-catching art, and lots of dancing.

Each floor had a different vibe from the last, and as you make your way up the stairs, each space became even more energetic and vibrant.

At the first-floor landing, a go-go dancer in platform heels and striped, high-waisted shorts greeted me as they danced along to the music. After that, people began piling into a room where the walls were adorned with graffiti and sexualized drawings — even one showing a buff Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” with protruding nipples by the artist Huetek

A pole on a platform embellished with a horse from a merry-go-round and flanked by a wall of graffiti and a Tom of Finland mural sat in the corner, providing a place for friends, lovers, and everyone in between to engage in an Instagram-ready photo-op. The Tom of Finland mural that is on the wall next to the horse is a collaboration with the eponymous foundation, according to the bar’s manager.

Each additional floor had ample space to dance, but the fourth floor was where I found the real party. 

Being that it was the first night of Pride Weekend in New York City, and the opening of a massive new club space, the queer community definitely came out for this opening.

At the Q, head straight to the top floor. That’s where the party’s at.

The fourth floor is the most clublike space of the Q, with a DJ named P_A_T perched upon a high platform in front of gigantic LED screens projecting the letter Q surrounded by geometric designs dancing around it. 

One concerning obstacle was the number of stairs and small steps in a place filled with mostly-inebriated people. I’ve had my fair share of club slips and falls to know that raised edges and drunk people don’t mix.

With that aside, the packed dancefloor filled with a crowd of sweaty people dancing closely as the DJ bounced from Lady Gaga’s “Free Woman” to “Bounce Back” by Little Mix. 

It wasn’t long before I slipped right back into the grooves of dancing like no one is watching and chatting with new people.

I appreciated being surrounded by other people of color in a queer space.

Since moving to New York City in 2016 — and turning 21 in 2018 — I’ve ventured out to as far as Queens to experience different queer spaces within the boroughs. But, as expected, some just weren’t the right fit for me.

I found that there were bars that were mostly occupied by people of color, and those are the spaces I find myself most comfortable. While I’ve enjoyed nights out in those spaces, I’ve typically made my way to those bars less frequently than I’d like to, because many of them are not close to where I live in Brooklyn.

Most of my favorite spots are in Hell’s Kitchen, and the Q will definitely be added to my rotation.

Still, one of my least favorite parts of Hell’s Kitchen is the lack of people of color in queer spaces. I was thrilled to find that this was not an issue at the Q. While it was heavily dominated by white people — as a person of color, that’s something I notice often — it wasn’t hard to find other nonwhite folks in that space.

I’ve already mentioned it to a handful of my friends, and we’ve made plans to return soon.

It’s okay to be anxious when re-entering society after the pandemic, but I’m thrilled to get back to where I enjoy myself most.

The pandemic has been filled with death, isolation, and bad news for everyone. Those of us who were lucky enough to live through 2020 should be grateful for life and do what is best for us — not only for our bodies but for our mental health. If that means going out and partying, then so be it. But it’s also OK to stay inside and not feel comfortable convening in large groups just yet.

The LGBTQ+ community in particular has been hit hard by the pitfalls of living through a traumatizing pandemic. A poll released by Morning Consult and the Trevor Project in October 2020 surveyed LGBTQ people between the ages of 13-24 and found that 55% of respondents reported anxiety symptoms, and 53% reported symptoms of depression.

The survey found that LGBTQ youth were 2.4 times “more likely to report not being able to be themselves at home” than their straight and cisgender peers. LGBTQ respondents were also almost twice as likely to exhibit signs of anxiety or depression.

For me and my mental health, I think it’s OK to take time to grieve. But it’s also OK to release pent-up kinetic energy after so much isolation during the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says “you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic” without wearing a mask if you’re fully vaccinated. While the spread of the Delta variant is a concern, the CDC says fully vaccinated people are safe.

So go ahead and dance if you want to — I know I do. After all, we deserve it after the year we’ve had. 

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