How are LGBTQ bars surviving coronavirus? Join our live chat

As the coronavirus pandemic exploded on Atlanta in March, the city’s vibrant LGBTQ nightlife scene took a big hit: bars and nightclubs were ordered to shut down on March 19.

The closures were devastating for business owners – as well employees and entertainers used to working a crowd for tips and their livelihood.

It took nearly 12 weeks for bars and restaurants to get the OK from Gov. Brian Kemp to reopen. Even then, they faced a capacity cut to one-third and a list of 39 mandatory guidelines to follow. The bars also had to convince customers and employees that it was safe to return.

Just as they prepared to open their doors on June 1, bar owners confronted another hurdle. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered a citywide curfew to stem violent outbreaks from otherwise peaceful rallies and marches for racial justice and equality. 

How did LGBTQ-owned bars survive the coronavirus pandemic? How will they thrive in the months ahead? 

The next episode of Q Conversations explores that issue with Jennifer and Jami Maguire of My Sister’s Room, Johnny Martinez and Brandon Ley of Joystick Gamebar and Georgia Beer Garden, and Richard Ramy of the Atlanta Eagle. 

Join the conversation on Friday, June 19 at noon. (The event is free, but registration is required.)

Can’t make the event on Friday? Register and we’ll share a recording of the conversation that you can replay later.

Host Matt Hennie is the founder of Project Q Atlanta, a media outlet covering LGBTQ issues, and has worked in local journalism for more than 25 years.

Jennifer and Jami Maguire became owners of My Sister’s Room in 2011, as the popular lesbian bar celebrated its 15th anniversary in its longtime home in East Atlanta. In 2019, they moved the bar to bigger digs in Midtown. They also produce the popular Sexacola Beach event in Pensacola, Fla., over Memorial Day Weekend – though that event was canceled this year due to the pandemic. The pair also launched a Facebook page to help out-of-work service and entertainment workers stay informed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Martinez and Ley are the owners of Joystick Gamebar and Georgia Beer Garden on Edgewood Avenue. The pair opened Joystick in 2012, and Georgia Beer Garden followed in 2016. In May, they launched an effort to legalize marijuana to help the state raise revenues in an economy hit hard by coronavirus, provide a boost to farmers and end criminal cases involving marijuana that often disproportionately impact people of color.

Ramey owns Atlanta Eagle, the popular leather bar that passed its 33rd anniversary during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in April. He faced the infamous Atlanta police raid in 2009, buying out his business partner, property rezoning and rumors every few years that the bar is closing. (It’s not.) Ramey also owns the Flower Cottage in East Point.

This event is supported through a grant from Facebook Journalism Project's COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.