LGBTQ bars and restaurants have been a safe haven for many. Absolut Vodka, a longtime supporter of Pride Month, is looking to help better support these businesses via its ‘Out & Open’ campaign.
The initiative taps voices like actor and comedian Bowen Yang of Saturday Night Live to highlight the impact of these businesses. It looks to bring awareness to their plight as they face a steady decline in the industry by partnering with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), with a significant contribution towards succession planning education for these establishments and other LGBTQ-owned businesses.
An audio-visual series, led by photographer Bronson Farr, launched Out & Open on Absolut.com by bringing to life real stories from inside the walls of these vital spaces. In the series, members of the LGBTQ community share their stories and highlight the role that LGBTQ bars have played, and continue to play, in their lives. In a ‘Love Letter’ to New York City LGBTQ bar Eastern Bloc, Yang says, “LGBTQ bars are monuments to our past, venues for the present and gateways to our future.”
“Certain places have a hold on you from the moment you walk through their doors the people, the energy, the possibilities. This is especially true for members of the LGBTQ community like myself,” said Bowen Yang. “These bars simultaneously hold our history and our future, bringing people of all walks of life together in celebration of each other.”
To highlight the importance of protecting the future of LGBTQ bars and restaurants, Absolut partnered with the NGLCC to make the organization’s training programs around succession planning more accessible to more LGBTQ business owners. Only 34% of small business owners have succession plans, and of that less than 24% are in the bar and restaurant industry, according to research conducted in 2016 by the NGLCC.
The succession trainings, hosted by NGLCC subject matter experts, will take place in cities such as Minneapolis, New Orleans and Denver, among other cities as well as virtually. LGBTQ business owners can register on the NGLCC website on a first-come-first-serve basis to learn how they can protect the future of their business so they can continue to provide a safe space to their communities.
Recent studies have shown that LGBTQ bar listings have declined by 15.1% between 2019 and Spring 2021, on the heels of a 14.4% decline between 2017 and 2019. While these closures have been exacerbated by the pandemic, a number of factors have driven this steady decline, including gentrification, technology and a lack of the succession planning that prevents these spaces from staying out and open for the next generation.
However, despite being especially vulnerable to closures, these spaces are vital for the LGBTQ community. Whether providing a space for belonging, freedom and acceptance, serving as hubs for activism and fundraisers, or serving as a source for networking, resources and employment, these bars and restaurants exist at the center of the community and Absolut is committed to advocating for them to remain Out & Open.
Absolut’s long standing support of the LGBTQ community is made most visible by its Pride bottle, having featured Gilbert Baker’s iconic rainbow flag since 2008, and just released its new design. The rainbow flag represents the range of voices that make up the LGBTQ community, celebrating unity in diversity, much like Out & Open.