What have we been up to lately? Hear about all the latest including our You, Inc career event which begins Tuesday, September 22, in this video which appeared on the September 20 Quaran-Tea, featuring QNF Steering Committee member Mark O’Brien.
The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) was honored to be asked by the San Francisco Entertainment Commission to present a summary of our work supporting workers in queer nightlife struggling due to the pandemic. On Tuesday, September 15, 2020, Angel Garfold, Race Bannon and Shannon Amitin told the Commissioners about QNF and its work. QNF also provided information that the Commission might find useful in their work as they explore ways to safely reopen local nightlife in the future, both outdoors in the short term and indoors in the long term.
Commissioner Laura Thomas, who had invited QNF to the meeting, provided a lead in to the presentation lauding QNF for stepping up early during shelter in place. Thomas explained that QNF quickly understood the challenges that the nightlife industry, the queer nightlife industry in particular, is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thomas pointed out that QNF is doing one of the things that the queer community does best, figuring out how to take care of our own. Thomas also mentioned that while some of the things we would be presenting were specifically pertinent to queer nightlife, much of the information we have gathered potentially applies to all of San Francisco nightlife too and could help the Entertainment Commission in their decision making and process moving forward
Garfold started the presentation with an overview of what QNF is and what we’ve been doing to date. She explained how Phil Hammack brought together what ended up being the Steering Committee members in mid-March to see what could be done to address the hit nightlife was taking because of the virus. QNF knew that workers in local queer nightlife were going to be severely impacted by the shelter in place orders, unable to work, and otherwise challenged because many nightlife workers are gig workers not eligible for some of the financial relief other workers could access.
We quickly rallied, Garfold said, to begin aggressive fundraising to help struggling workers, much of that money already in the hands of workers with application review for our third round of grants currently underway. Over time, especially in light of more public awareness of racial injustice, QNF shifted its mission to address more heavily impacted marginalized communities.
One of the ways QNF began to raise funds directly from the community itself was hosting its now regular Quaran-Tea Dance online party events that started as weekly events and has lately been produced on a more sustainable monthly basis.
Garfold mentioned our new Queer Nightlife Talks which launched in August with the second one taking place that very same evening (detailed summary report coming soon). Garfold also mentioned our new career and skills development series. She wrapped up her summary of QNF’s activity to date with news about our new DJ podcast series. It was emphasized that all of our DJs, hosts, performers, moderators, and ASL intepreters are compensated to stay true to our mission of helping queer workers survive the pandemic.
Garfold ended her portion of the presentation by highlighting that QNF has become truly aware of the hardship many queer nightlife workers are enduring and that the community needs to help them figure out how to make it through these difficult times.
Bannon then presented on the community feedback and discussion results from the first Queer Nightlife Talk, “What makes it a party for you?” so that this information could potentially be used going forward by the Commission. Rather than reiterate that entire portion of the presentation here we encourage everyone to read the detailed summary report QNF created from that event. The Commission was sent a concise PDF document ahead of time and Bannon strongly suggested the Commission drill down into the details of that report to better inform their work going forward.
Just a few of the points Bannon touched upon are: the technology challenges some producers have in the online world; how some online event attendees love the accessibility they provide; how online events make some queer folks feel more comfortable considering attending real time events in the future; Zoom fatigue and the decrease in online event attendance; that people want to feel safe and secure but are clamoring for in person events when possible; some of the social distancing challenges even in outdoor spaces; the desire to have online events continue to happen for various reasons once in person events remerge on the scene; hybrid events such as limited attendance in person events also announcing an outdoor location where party attendees could gather socially distanced and dance to foster a party feel in a safer manner; and that many of the ideas and input gathered at the Talk pertain to not just queer nightlife but nightlife overall.
Next Amitin mentioned that when shelter-in-place began QNF knew we had to act swiftly. Without unionization or a governmental body to advocate for queer nightlife workers, we knew it was up to the community to care for its own.
Six months into the QNF effort Amitin offered that the Entertainment Commission is the queer community’s best ally in this moment and that it is imperative that we meet folks where they are at — and to do that, we must provide any and all resources to support a community that has continuously faced discrimination, a loss of venues, and unbearable displacement.
Amitin mentioned that unemployment extensions and long-gone PPP loans are not enough. As we stare down a long road of recovery, QNF believes we must take a harm reduction approach and work now to provide the necessary permits to gather safely outdoors. He reiterated that QNF recently held a public forum to discuss the future of queer nightlife, and while we covered both in person and virtual events, the majority of the time was spent brainstorming ways to hold future safe in person events.
This demonstrates a deep-seated need for in person events, and we are looking for a way to help the community to gather again face to face safely. Amitin offered that the organizers of the Castro Shared Spaces program, of which Amitin is one, were provided all the information and tools necessary to host safe, weekly outdoor events. Now we see how well a safe, structured reopening can work.
Since gyms may pull a $25 permit to hold classes in city parks, and neighborhood organizations can receive Shared Spaces permits of their own, QNF asked that the Entertainment Commission prioritize small-scale party promoter outdoor events.
Amitin concluded that people around the world associate San Francisco with LGBTQ culture, but well before the pandemic local queer nightlife was suffering. We simply cannot afford to take its survival for granted.
During the post-presentation question and answer portion of the meeting, Commissioners asked questions and provided feedback.
Commissioner Steven Lee brought up internal Commission discussions about what a Stage 4 reopening of some venues, likely months away for now, might look like and asked if QNF might be willing to provide suggestions for appropriate safety protocols and best practices based on what we have learned thus far. Much of that information already existed in the detailed report we provided from our first Queer Nightlife Talk commuity public forum, but QNF agreed to assist the Commission in any way possible. It was acknowledged that while the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) must appropriately take the lead in what is safer, perhaps the QNF could provide input that would dovetail nicely with DPH’s guidelines to better prepare venues for reopening while maintaining community health.
What might work for the queer nightlife community would likely work for other nightlife communites in the city too. QNF said it would consider such an advisory alliance once the QNF Steering Committee discussed it further. Another idea suggested by Amitin was a QNF and Entertainment Commission co-produced event during which the entire San Francisco nightlife community would provide input that could benefit the creation of future protocols and strategies for venue and event reopenings.
Another point brought up by Commissioner Thomas was that drag performers, since most lip sync, already abide by the “no singing” guidelines and perhaps that is yet one more opportunity for performers to begin working again at some point while abiding by the current guidelines.
Bannon brought up that some other countries are ahead of the United States in figuring out how to hold outdoor events and slowly reopen brick and mortar venues and perhaps we could look to them for some guidance also when determining what might work for San Francisco. Amitrin pointed out that San Francisco is already permitting limited outdoor events such as the Shared Spaces program and that that experience and data can be used too when creating future protocols and guidelines.
Commissioner Lee mentioned the challenges weather might pose as San Francisco gets colder and wetter in the coming months. So, while it has to be done safely and in compliance with DPH’s directives, giving some thought to being inside ahead of time now makes some sense.
Commissioner Cyn Wang thanked the QNF and pointed out that San Francisco’s queer community and famous nightlife scene is part of what makes San Francisco special and draws in visitors from around the world. Wang also mentioned that the Entertainment Commission is already working on some accessory entertainment uses as part of already approved outdoor events or street authorizations and asked asked QNF that if there is anything we think should be advocated for with policy makers or pushing for in terms of regulatory changes, to let the Commission know and they would take that under serious consideration. Wang wants to be especially sure that the needs of the queer nightlife community are always part of decision making or policies. Wang reinterated that the Commission is an ally to the queer nightlife commuity.
Commissioner Lt. Dave Falzon mentioned how important it was to hear from an organization like QNF who works in a “boots on the ground” fashion with the nightlife community. Falzon also highlighted something that surprised him during the report on the Queer Nightlife Talk that many community members hoped that some online events would continue post-pandemic. He now holds the view that perhaps online programming could be part of San Francisco’s overall nightlife future. He also brought up that he’s mindful of how performers get compensated during online events and QNF responded that compensation for performers and artists is part of our core values and we agree.
Bannon pointed out that in the future when we have returned to some semblance of nightlife normality, online events seen around the world could draw people to visit San Francisco to be part of our amazing nightlife scene.
Garfold used the Quaran-Tea Dance done in collaboration with the Sisters Perpetual Indulgence for their Easter event as an example of a local event having a huge worldwide audience that also allowed former or displaced San Francisco residents to experience the wonders of our party culture too.
Commissioner Dori Caminong lauded the QNF’s fundraising total of $300,000 raised thus far and how important the giving of grants were at this time. Caminong said fundraising is something people are often afraid of or not good at and was impressed at QNF’s fundraising abilities. When we create these spaces for people to come together and break down barriers for them to come together, you end up falling in love and that courtship happens and the money comes, the volunteers come, the network comes, and QNF is at the forefront of a movement right now.
Garfold added to Caminong’s comments letting the Commission know that about $240,000 of the money QNF has raised has come directly from individuals in the community itself helping other community members survive. Some of the money came from Horizons Foundation and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (we’d like to thank our generous corporate sponsor, PLUS Products, too), but most of it came from individuals.
QNF made it clear when the Commission asked about the sharing of QNF’s content on the Entertainment Commission’s platforms and channels that QNF is a transparent organization and we consider everything we do to belong to the community itself. So everything is quite shareable.
Commissioner Ben Bleiman was impressed at QNF’s ability to engage so quickly and raise so much money. He mentioned that he is hopefulthat sometime soon we will hawe the ability to have outdoor entertainment as part of the Shared Spaces program and he expects the queer nightlife community to be a signficant part of driving such efforts.
Bleiman also acknowledged QNF’s suggestion of using outdoor and park areas for outdoor events. He gave DPH credit for doing an incredible job of keeping COVID-19 numbers low in our city and we all need to give them kudos for protecting us so well. Bleiman said it appears to him that DPH’s philosophy is to discourage people from leaving their homes. Therefore, permitting more outdoor events in more places might be challenging at this time. He admitted this was just his perception since he has not had those deep, direct conversations yet with DPH. He felt that since DPH’s overarching metric by which they judge reopenings and things like event permitting is the numbers and that primary goal likely matters to DPH over other personal or cultural needs of the community.
Bleiman expressed his hopes that DPH and the Entertainment Commission can work closely together to create safe social opportunities for residents. He felt is is worth examining with the DPH if there are ways for people to leave their homes and have small gatherings with queer nightlife performers, non-aerosal instruments, and so on, that remain safe. He said it does appear that until there is a vaccine it appears that the more extreme approach to restrictions dominates at the moment. The Entertainment Commission cares deeply about nightlife, and queer nightlife specifically, but it is important to set expectations about what might be possible in terms of gatherings in the short term.
Bleiman again lauded what QNF has done thus far. There are other groups, such as the Independent Venue Alliance, who have found fundraising a struggle and perhaps they can look to QNF for strategies.
Commissioner Thomas ended the QNF presentation portion of the meeting by saying that it is clear the Entertainment Commision is enthusiastic in figuring out how to support the queer nightlife community and that includes the workers, event attendees, event producers and promoters, and venues. She hoped that some other Commissioners would attend some of the Queer Nightlife Talks to better understand what is happening currently in the nightlife community. Attending the QNF Quaran-Tea Dance parties was encouraged.
Comissioner Thomas ended by thanking QNF again and encouraging her fellow Comissioners to read the report on the first Queer NIghtlife Talk and that it was one of the best reports she has seen from a community event.
The SF Entertainment Commission’s meetings are public record and you can view the recording of the meeting on the SFGovTV site.
Quaran-Tea is back, y’all! Did you miss us? This time we are thrilled to present Outputmessage, performing a live PA set. Check out outputmessage.com for a glimpse of some of the wide range of works this self-described experience artist has created. We’re starting at 4 pm to give you more time to enjoy what is usually the best weather of the year around here, before you tune in and celebrate the sunset with us.
The event will stream on QNF’s Twitch channel:
For a more interactive experience, jump on our Zoom, which will be accessible at
Its Judy (The Cubhouse)
DJ Die Wies (UhaulSF, WomanopolySF)
Get the music pumping on Twitch, clear out some space to dance, and log into Zoom with your webcam on to show us what you’ve got.
As San Francisco continues its steady, measured process of reopening, we want everyone to remain vigilant, wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and look out for each other. Staying home and socializing online is a healthy choice. We are giving you an interactive party experience while we all shelter in place.
We are raising money for the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund, which has raised nearly $300,000 to date. Please consider a donation to help keep nightlife vibrant in the Bay Area. More detail is available at http://sfqueernightlifefund.org
Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March, Quaran-Tea has established itself as a gathering place for diverse members of the LGBTQIA+ community to come together, blow off some steam, and enjoy a range of great music. We hope you’ll join us.
Outputmessage photo by Michael A. McCoy
The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund is committed to keeping queer nightlife vibrant in the SF Bay Area throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing direct financial relief, we have also produced an event called Quaran-Tea both to help with fundraising and to provide space for local artists to perform. We are also looking to provide additional opportunities for exposure including launching a SoundCloud mix series. These are paid engagements.
Want to jump into the mix? Sign up here, tell us about yourself, and share a sample of your work with us. We will review, and reach out as space permits. Artists who are chosen will be compensated for their participation.
All members of the SF Queer Nightlife community are welcome to apply. Recognizing the history of white supremacy and male cisgender privilege in queer communities, we aim to prioritize women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
In the first months of the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund’s operation our practice was to accept grant applications in large batch “rounds” through which we have already distributed awards for round 1 and round 2 totalling $236,490. We are quite proud of that accomplishment. That process made sense at the time. But much has changed in recent months.
Weekly fundraising totals have declined as we vie for community donation dollars rightfully being given to other projects, organizations and causes. Plus, many have fewer dollars to give right now.
Because of declining fundraising dollars and because the previous timeline for accepting applications and granting awards was often a lengthy process, we are adopting a new, refocused model awarding emergency grants on a monthly basis.
Now, our Fund’s grant awards will specifically address emergency food and medical bill needs. Applications will be due on the 10th of the month. We will then review all current grant applications and determine where the greatest need exists and what we can offer based on the Fund monies available at the time. We will notify grant award recipients on the 24th of the month with the anticipated grant amount sent to the recipient by the end of the month. The maximum grant will be $500.
We will begin this new process immediately with the first application deadline September 10, 2020.
If you are a worker in SF Bay Area queer nightlife and have an emergency food or medical need, visit our Grant Application page on which you’ll find our guidelines for applicants and application form.
In a recent Evolving as the pandemic endures post, we explained our organization’s revised purpose. We feel at this point in time it is important to prioritize women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer, Black, Indigeous, and people of color. While we still intend to provide resources and opportunites to the entire spectrum of workers in queer nightlife, we strongly encourage people in these too-often marginalized demographics to apply.
Those needing assistance with rent and utilities are encouraged to visit our COVID Resources page.
We also plan to continue to financially support queer nightlife workers by paying performers and others who help us to provide virtual events for the community. Historically, we have paid DJs, hosts, facilitators, and sign language interpreters for their contributions during our online Quaran-Tea Dances and other events. We plan to continue paying for such services and hope to find other ways we can directly pay those who help contribute to the success of our events.
As recently announced at out first Queer Nightlife Talks public forum, we are investigating ways to provide knowledge sharing and job skills development to empower workers in queer nightlife in multiple ways so that they can best survive what now appears to be a pandemic with little sign of subsiding in the short term. We hope to announce such opportunities soon.
We will continue our efforts to maintain community rituals and connection with our online Quaran-Tea Dances. The next Quaran-Tea Dance will be Sunday, September 20, 2020, 4pm-7pm Pacific. Please note that we have changed the time of Quaran-Tea to accommodate those people wanting to spend daytimes outdoors.
Historian James Clifford once said “Cultures do not hold still for their portrait.” This is true for queer nightlife culture too. Change is the norm and we must adapt. Our Fund hopes to help local queer nightlife evolve and grow in new ways so that we emerge from the pandemic as strong and vibrant as possible.
To keep awarding grants and providing resources and opportunities for struggling workers in queer nightlife, your donation would be apprecated. Visit our QNF donations page.
Since first forming in March 2020, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) has been working hard to raise money to assist workers in local queer nightlife who are struggling financially due to COVID-19 and the resulting bar and venue closures.
We are proud that to date we have raised $299,699 toward this effort.
Of the $299,699 raised, $220,917 has come from individual donations, $68,783 from organization donations, and $10,000 from foundation grants.
We are especially proud that we have distributed as direct grant relief assistance $236,490 to approximately 300 recipients in need. This has taken place during our Round 1 and Round 2 distribution cycles.
Going forward, QNF is moving to a monthly emergency grant award cycle with new award and application parameters that will be announced soon in a separate post.
One of the additional ways QNF helps support queer nightlife workers is by paying them for their work done during our events such as our regular online Quaran-Tea Dance parties. Thus far we have paid performers $3,830.
As a volunteer led organization, QNF takes pride in keeping our operational costs low, with just 6.3% of monies raised accounting for expenses. Since our founding we have spent: $2,610 for supplies, subscriptions, advertising, and other operating expenses; $6,812 in financial transaction and banking fees; and $5,639 in fiscal sponsorship fees.
Our organization thrives on transparency so that the community can be sure that the money they donate to QNF is being well spent. We remain committed to proper financial oversight of the donations the community has generously contributed to helping queer nightlife workers.
What makes it a party for you? On Tuesday, August 11, 2020, the SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund (QNF) hosted the first of its online Queer Nightlife Talks asking this question. QNF asked attendees at this public forum who frequent local queer nightlife what would draw them to an online or future coronavirus-safe in-person event.
The event served as a community brainstorming session with a wealth of ideas shared on how to best produce events that would meet the needs of Bay Area queer culture as they struggle with the realities of the pandemic.
More than 75 people attended with Angel Garfold of QNF and Honey Mahogany of The STUD facilitating. Media outlet 48 Hills co-sponsored the event. The audience was actively engaged in the discussion both verbally as well as in the robust sidebar chat that took place throughout the event.
QNF is all about sharing. Our mindset is information or resources that can benefit anyone in queer nightlife should be readily shared for all to use. So, in the interest of ensuring that the ideas and comments that arose at the forum are offered to the entire community as useful feedback, we are summarizing the night’s proceedings here.
We hope current and newcomer event producers can use this information to make their events successful and appeal to a wide swath of the Bay Area queer community. We believe that by brainstorming, sharing ideas, and working together, we can all be more effective and evolve more rapidly to foster local queer nightlife as we adapt to the challenges COVID-19 presents.
The following summary coalesces the most frequently-raised ideas and comments into high-level thematic categories. However, in the interest of providing the community with a thorough reporting on the night’s happenings for those interested in the greatest level of detail, you can find a public Google document that contains extensive notes taken from the 2-hour discussion – questions, comments and ideas.
Angel explained that the QNF has reworked its mission. The QNF remains committed to providing resources and opportunities to promote and support those in queer nightlife in the SF Bay Area during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also embracing even greater diversity and inclusion.
Amid the reality of donor fatigue and a longer than anticipated pandemic, QNF will be awarding smaller grants for emergency needs like food and medications, and creating new opportunities for queer performers and artists to be paid for their work.
QNF will explain more about its revised mission and objectives in a future blog post.
The next online QNF Quaran-Tea Dance party was announced. It will be Sunday, September 20, 2020. 4pm-7pm, viewable on the QNF Twitch channel.
There was a lot of discussion about the various online platforms used with Zoom and Twitch being the most mentioned. The censorship on these platforms and others is problematic, especially for some types of queer content audiences want. One new, smaller queer platform, Joie de Vive was mentioned that does not have such restrictions. There appeared to be consensus that our community needs platforms that better suit our needs and perhaps even owned by the queer community itself.
The Zoom breakout room feature is not being used enough, and doing so might encourage more intimate conversations and meeting new people.
The range of technological backgrounds and skill sets for those attending events as well as those looking to produce events ran the gamut from total beginner to advanced and this disparity is a problem. Everyone agreed anything that an increase in the collective technological skills of the community would be welcome.
We need versions of online platforms on which we can easily sell tickets to watch a performance or event behind a paywall.
Online Events – What People Like
The most mentioned benefit of online events was accessibility and ease of access. For those with a disability or who are unable to afford more expensive queer events and venues, online events offer a welcome ease of entry.
More than one person joked that it was nice not having to get dressed or put many clothes on to attend.
The creativity possible and artistry on display with online presentations such as with drag shows was mentioned often.
Being able to experience a wider range of queer events because of the ease of online access is a plus.
Event platforms which provide chat functionality encourage interactivity and community.Not being able to see people in Twitch as one can with Zoom (if cams are turned on) was a downside of Twitch.
The flattening of geography and global reach of online events not only broadens the audience but provides the opportunity to book talent from across the world.
Online events can provide access for the more introverted or those dealing with social anxiety, and could serve as a bridge to eventually make them feel more comfortable coming to in-person events they might not otherwise attend. This was another vote for continuing the online experiences post-pandemic.
Online Events – What People Don’t Like
The novelty of online events has begun to wear down and producers are struggling to make money during online events. If producers can’t make money, will they have the incentive to maintain an online component once we can return to venues?
Having audiences split between Twitch, Zoom, Facebook, and so on, is problematic. People join on one platform and wonder if they are missing out on the other.
The technological savvy needed to attend events, and certainly to produce them, are hurdles.
Certain event attendees want some dedicated casual time after an event. They do not want the online event to shut down right after it is over. In lieu of holding the event open, the concept of “raiding” into other channels on Twitch or announcing during the event that they hope someone volunteers to host an after party was discussed.
Discussions about money fell into a few categories.
Online events were doing well with donations in the beginning, but some of that is trickling off. One of the reasons may be that people don’t have the money right now.
The ease of being able to tip performers or donate to events and producers via Venmo, PayPal, or some other easy mechanism is a big plus. Venmo was mentioned most often as the payment app of choice. Having Venmo or other payment information prominently displayed during an event or performance was encouraged. Patreon was another suggested support mechanism discussed.
One of the realities of the pandemic is that those venues and spaces opening for gatherings outside have a financial barrier built in. To have a drink at a bar, you need to buy food, which makes the cost prohibitive for some. In-person events with limited attendance to ensure safety also often have a high price tag associated with them. It is important to continue to take financial challenges into consideration as future events are planned.
Many of the solutions for events inside bars and venues would cost a lot. Would these places absorb these costs, or would they be prohibitive?
Since a lot of online events are donation-based, people who can afford to pay more sometimes do and those who are unable to pay can still attend. This is especially an issue now that so many are not working.
Financial accessibility has been a big plus for online events for which you do not have to pay a cover. Most events have had a request for donation, but no one is turned away for lack of funds.
Performers should be paid for their work to the best ability of producers. This can be tricky since many events are entirely donation based.
Online Event Production
It was agreed that, for now, online events are the predominant form of event gatherings to which we must all adhere. That said, there was consensus that the wider the array of event offerings, the better.
Some of the types of online events suggested were variety shows, competition shows, DJs sets, drag shows, talent contests, open mics, fiercest webcam background contests, comedy shows, dancer performances, and live music.
Many mentioned the desire to have streaming events happening at different times throughout the week instead of just on weekends to draw in more people.
Attendance has started to go down dramatically at online events. Is that because of the good weather, online fatigue, or something else?
Many expressed enjoying the ability to sit and passively consume entertainment while others said they would like to see more interactivity with the event encouraged.
A lot of people are on Zoom events but not using their cameras, and that decreases the sense of communal engagement. While it is understood some are not comfortable on camera, increasing face time can increase a sense of community.
The ask is heavy for online production. The stress of online production is a different ballgame from real life production. Everything goes through one single conduit and if anything goes wrong with the stream the whole event is over.
There was a huge consensus that the community needs as much online production skills and resources development as possible. Skill share classes and mentorships would be welcome and QNF mentioned we are considering just such projects in the future. Shared production facilities, perhaps created in venues that are currently closed, could become production studios available to the community for free or at low cost. Partnerships could be forged that share expertise and resources.
In general, the technological savvy, infrastructure and staffing expertise for online events was considered one of the greatest hurdles to a more diverse set of producers creating events.
In-Person Event Production
People seem ready to go back to in-person events, but only once they are truly safe. Some have a lower threshold of safety requirements than others. While some would consider events in the near term that responsibly social distance and maintain reasonable safety protocols, others were hesitant to attend anything in person until the pandemic is far more resolved than it is today.
It was assumed throughout the discussion that we would not be going back inside bars and venues anytime soon. So, most of the discussion centered on using outdoor spaces for events.
Outdoor spaces with lots of air seem to be the only way to go for now. The more space and moving air, the better.
While there was a lot of great discussion about how to host live events, the legal city and state mandates that prohibit any gatherings of size must obviously be adhered to. It was acknowledged that many of the ideas being offered for real time events are for the future and not for the near term.
Safety protocols such as at the door rapid testing, presenting test results for entry, door temperature checks, drawing circles or designating spaces on the ground, creating physical barriers between pods of attendees, and creating physical barriers people wear like makeshift hoop skirts or certain types of costumes were echoed throughout the event. Mask usage could be encouraged by having a best mask contest.
Karaoke bars were mentioned as a configuration model where you each have your own individual room with perhaps no more than six people per room. That solution contains people well but would still depend on ventilation in the space too.
One thing we learned from the recent Black Lives Matter rallies and protests where people spent hours in close proximity, often shouting, was that since almost everyone wore masks it does not appear a spike in transmission was linked to those events. Distancing did not happen at the protests, but masks did. So, if masks stay on and you are outdoors it can be quite safe.
A challenge for real time events is not just spacing people out in common areas, but rather handling situations like entryways and bathrooms where people will inevitably need to share the same air space with others simultaneously or shortly after others are present.
Some events by their nature enforce social distancing. Flagging (flag dancing) or moving bicycle parties were one way to build in distancing into the nature of the event itself. Properly spaced silent discos and other creative approaches to gatherings were discussed. Perhaps drive-in shows?
Providing free masks upon request for all attendees was both a good safety measure and ensures those who forgot a mask will be protected.
Alcohol and substances spawned a lot of discussion. It was agreed that once people consume alcohol or their substance of choice, their discernment of what is safe or not often flies out the window. The need for safety monitors was paramount to making sure attendees practice safe distancing, wear their masks, and wear them properly. Do we enforce one or two drink maximums when alcohol is served?
One attendee cited a UK news report that scientists discovered that drunk people are not capable of socially distancing.
Certain types of events will lend themselves better to social distancing than others. Shows that pods of separate audience members can watch or lounge environments with chill music that foster staying in one place versus dancing and moving around were considered ideal right now. The future of nightlife in the short term is seated, at tables, or with people separated by some physical or logical barriers.
For outdoor dance parties, the spacing may have to be more than the norm since people are being highly active and likely projecting droplets as they dance. Masks will help in this regard.
Burning Man participants were mentioned as highly creative at developing unique events and configurations, and that we should tap into that creativity and experience.
When we are ready to do outdoor events, we should look to the infrastructure we already have in place locally such as McLaren Park, Garcia Amphitheater, and the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. There are a lot of outdoor spaces that might be free to use (but you do need a permit, which might cost money) and could possibly be sponsored by bars and organizations within the city. We should work with the city to help us with the resources that are already available.
We can get creative with rooftop parties, parties at the beach, and so on.
Speaking of the city, working with our local San Francisco Entertainment Commission, the Department of Public Health, the Mayor’s office and the Board of Supervisors will be important to make sure the community’s queer nightlife culture needs and ideas are taken into consideration when making policy.
Many felt that at the current locations where bars and restaurants are serving in outdoor areas the enforcement of the rules and guidelines were lax. Some places are doing a better job than others. An example was people sitting at tables not actively drinking or eating unmasked for extended periods of times and not being told they were in violation.
Once our local weather turns chilly again, will people be willing to be outside and might this hurt attendance?
Valencia Street, when it is closed off at certain times for gathering, was mentioned a few times. Social distancing does not appear to be happening and some do not have masks on at all.
Someone brought up block parties with perhaps a reserved or progressive system in collaboration with the bars. If there are block parties with stages or screens, the emcee should constantly remind people to keep their mask on when not actively drinking or eating. Maybe we could create a progressive block party associated with various bars so all the bars can benefit and help keep them in business.
The concept of “party pod,” a small group of people who hang and go out together, was a common theme for real time engagement. However, someone mentioned that the reason small groups are recommended is that then it is easier to track if there is an outbreak. So, it is not necessarily safer for people within pods, but if someone does test positive it makes contact tracing easier. But yes, pods do limit exposure and it is a good way to survive this pandemic. Nothing is zero risk. It is about risk reduction. It is not likely any of the solutions discussed during the evening will be 100% safe until there’s a vaccine or if you’re home alone doing only online events.
Our reaction to the pandemic is very much behind Europe and North Asia. They are looking at a lot of ways to deal with the pandemic a little bit post where we are at nationally. It is a good idea to look to them and see what they are doing as far as trying things out and seeing what is working or not.
Will venues need to require those entering to provide accurate contact information for contact tracing if there is an outbreak and how do we ensure that the information provided is accurate?
Hybrid Event Production
Even once the pandemic subsides, many would like to see the online component of events continue because they offer important benefits.
As an example that illustrates what many envision as a hybrid approach to future events, post-pandemic one could produce a party in a club that could also provide a link for real-time viewing or a pin drop at an outdoor location if people wanted to meet up and dance with people.
Once we can go inside again, the costs to promoters due to reduced capacity, socially distant events are exceedingly difficult if not impossible to sustain.
Whether it was online, in person, or a hybrid, the need for a greater variety of events was often mentioned.
We might need to start with combination events. Those not comfortable joining in person can watch from home. Maybe you have a lottery. A small number of people get to attend the in-person event, and there is a virtual element to the party that people can watch and chat. Eventually you make this hybrid mindset part of the culture.
Perhaps offer some sort of incentivized engagement like an online scavenger hunt and the winners can go to a real time party.
If there are any questions about this summary or if you have an idea for a topic for a future Queer Nightlife Talk, contact QNF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For another insightful take on how local Bay Area nightlife culture is attempting to adapt to the times, check out the Party Radar: Necessary conversations in a time of nightlife consternation article on 48 Hills.
Looking for a way to keep COMMUNITY going in this time of social distancing and shuttered community spaces?
The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund is RECRUITING for new steering committee members!
The QNF is a volunteer-led community organization providing resources and opportunities for queer nightlife workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out our mission,
To date we have raised nearly $300,000 and distributed almost 300 grants of direct aid for lifeline expenses for queer nightlife workers.
The QNF has established virtual community rituals such as the Quaran-Tea Dance, a platform for queer nightlife artists that also serves as a regular fundraiser.
The leadership team is expanding! We seek individuals passionate about queer nightlife in the SF Bay Area and those who want to help nightlife workers continue to thrive in this time of uncertainty. We especially seek those who have interest in social media marketing, grant writing, fundraising, and/or virtual event production.
Consistent with our mission, we especially encourage women, transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and all queer Black, Indigenous, and people of color to join our leadership team. We ask specific questions about gender identities, sexual identities, and race/ethnicity in an effort to fulfill our mission.
Apply here! We will consider applications on an ongoing basis.