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Arts + CultureCultureSF Queer Nightlife Fund: Best of the Bay 2020...

SF Queer Nightlife Fund: Best of the Bay 2020 Editors’ Pick

The grassroots mutual aid operation raised $300,000 for spot grants to cash-strapped DJs, dancers, drag queens, and more

From the end of 2020 and into 2021, we’re publishing our Best of the Bay 2020 Editors’ Picks, highlighting some of the tremendous people, places, and things that made the Bay Area shine during one heck of a year. View more Editors’ Picks, plus our Best of the Bay 2020 Readers Poll winners and our Readers Stories of Resilience here.

When the COVID shutdown hit in March, a century ago, it send an immediate shock through the nightlife ecosystem. Nightlife is often a delicate, improvisatory operation, barely hanging on by its fluorescent fingernails: DJs, performers, drag queens, bouncers, bartenders, sound and lighting technicians, go-gos, coat checkers and door people all come together in an evanescent flash that lifts you up on the dance floor and leaves you sparkling (if hungover) the next day.

Many of these party people make their living off of tips or contract work, and with venues immediately shuttered, that meager source of sustenance—in this economy!—quickly tanked. San Francisco Queer Nightlife Fund to the rescue! This nonprofit consortium of nightlifers young and seasoned, from all walks of the night, leaped into the void and set up an emergency grant fund for workers and performers.

The fund raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local workers (last count was $300,000), awarding spot grants to hundreds. But the party didn’t stop there. Through the summer, QNF’s weekly “Quaran-Tea” broadcasts online kept the venerable queer tradition of Sunday tea dances alive, which showcasing the incredible breadth of the Bay Area’s DJ and performance scene. It was a lifeline for dancers stuck at home, and raised the incredible amount of funds distributed.

But wait there’s even more: Throughout the year, QNF hosted online panels and forums on topics such as making everyone feel welcome and dealing with isolation. It was a chance for everyone to have a voice in the shape of nightlife to come.

As we move into 2021 with a glimmer of hope that our party palaces will reopen sooner than later, we hope the SF Queer Nightlife Fund stands as a testament to the kind of mutual aid and support that can be accomplished when the community puts a mind (and a mixed drink) to it. —Marke B.

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