It’s been over nine months since the pandemic reared its ugly head in the U.S. and over a year in other parts of the world. For many queer spaces, the fear of shuttering their businesses has become a harsh reality. Tight state restrictions and lack of community support has closed down some of the most iconic LGBRT+ spaces around the nation. In California alone, West Hollywood, Hillcrest, and Palm Springs have all had COVID-19 club casualties.
For those establishments that are lucky enough to still be open, creativity has been the foundation for staying afloat. Their response? They’re putting on their heels and stepping up their game to deliver unforgettable experiences to their patrons.
Oasis, a popular hotspot in San Francisco, is a bar that has learned to be resourceful to continue keeping their doors open and their staff working.
Several months into the pandemic, D’Arcy Drollinger, owner of Oasis, re-envisioned the way the bar needed to provide service to its customers. Since opening in 2014, Oasis has been known for their drag performances and their full bar, so they begin brainstorming ways that they could bring customers a little bit of what they missed about Oasis. The idea to provide a delivery service with drag queens was the answer, but due to California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy restrictions, alcohol could only be served with food purchase.
The team at Oasis quickly partnered with a food caterer and started taking mobile orders and Meals on Heels was born! You’ve heard of Meals on Wheels? Well it’s like that, but more fabulous!
With drag queens making special deliveries to Oasis’ customers, the business thought it would elevate the service to have the queens also offer a socially distant lip sync performance.
“People love it,” says Carissa Hatchel Oasis Reservations Manager & Social Media Coordinator, “It’s such a uniquely “only in San Francisco” gift. People have enjoyed having a drag performance from the comfort of their own stoop, but also gifting it as such a memorable experience for friends and family.”
Oasis shares that they have seen a mixture in their delivery clientele. They are seeing that many of their loyal community is ordering along with a completely new market of customers who are finding Meals on Heels exactly what they needed to ease the stress of this year.
The launch of Meals on Heels has not gone smoothly, according to Hatchel, so if other bars want to implement a similar concept, they have their work cut out for them. “To be honest, it’s a big undertaking,” says Hatchel, “and even though we’ve been doing it for a few months, it’s still a lot of work. We certainly applaud anyone who’s come up with unique ways to keep business going during this tricky time, but it’s new and different than what we did for years, so it can be a bit tricky.”
Unfortunately, due to tightened restrictions by the State of California, Oasis had to suspend their Meals on Heels delivery as well as their outdoor rooftop dining with safe live drag performances. Oasis hopes to continue providing Meals on Heels even after the pandemic as it is something that is unique and customers truly enjoy.
However, they do offer digital programming, such as their monthly drag show and The Golden Girls Live which can be found on their Instagram.
During these difficult and unprecedented times, LGBTQ+ spaces need support from the community more than ever. When asked about what we can all do, Hatchel shares:
By donating, buying services or merch, and sharing and attending digital events. The money we get from our guests, supporters, and donors are what will keep us afloat so that we can still remain a clubhouse for the community after the pandemic. It’s been so devastating to watch so many local businesses shutter during this pandemic. But even if you don’t have the funds to support us financially, watching our digital events, sharing our posts on social media, and word of mouth support helps get the word out about Oasis so that we can build an even larger base with more support. And talk to your representatives about the importance of government support for small businesses and their employees during this time!
For more information, check out sfoasis.com to see how they’re keeping it fabulous during the pandemic.
In Southern California, Gossip Grill is another queer space that is venturing into a new way of keeping customers entertained during stay-at-home orders. Nestled in the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego since 2009, Gossip Grill is a full patio bar and restaurant with a dance floor that pre-pandemic was operating nightly as San Diego’s premium women’s bar.
Like many, Gossip Grill has had to pivot in their business model to remain opened.
Just like Oasis in San Francisco, Gossip Grill has launched creative delivery services that will set them apart from your usual food deliveries. On Thursdays, Gossip Grill will offer Drag Queen Delivery with San Diego queen Mariam T., within 5 miles. Customers can order online and get their food, drinks, and glitter delivered when Mariam appears at their door.
And if that’s not enough for you, on Fridays a unicorn will magically deliver your food. It may or may not be Mariam T.
For more information, check out gossipgrill.com to keep up with their latest offerings.
So think about the ways you can support a local queer space. And for drag’s sake, mask up, keep your distance, and stay safe so we can all be there again when it’s safe to go back to brunch.