The Q was supposed to be the most legendary and inclusive gay club in NYC history. But, instead, it’ll be known for its scandals and abrupt closure. The massive multi-level club, which opened in June 2021, seemed promising. With celebrity investors, like Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter to locally renowned performers and DJs, The Q appeared to be the next big thing. Yet, less than two years later, the club is closing its doors for good.
The Q has faced many controversies in its short-lived existence. From opening its doors in the middle of a global pandemic to a public lawsuit between its owners and allegations of discrimination, the Q has been known more for its scandals than its parties.
Last summer, former co-owner Frankie Sharp filed a lawsuit against Bob Fluet, Alan Pikus, and Bar Fluid LLC over accusations including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, unjust enrichment, and accounting. Sharp also made several accusations against Alan Pikus, including claims that Pikus created a toxic work environment and enforced discriminatory and transphobic rules.
Court documents obtained by Instinct Magazine on July 2, 2022, outlined the allegations in great detail, which started a wildfire on social media. Former customers shared their stories of being discriminated against and mistreated by staff. Former co-owner Alan Pikus was ousted as Executive Producer and replaced by newbie DJ Luis Fernando.
Related Post: https://instinctmagazine.com/the-qs-ownership-drama-brings-on-a-nightlife-reckoning/
In an attempt to repair their tarnished public reputation, The Q began making moves to win back the city’s favor. They began offering free entry and discounted tickets to those who couldn’t afford their high-priced door charge and working with non-profit organizations like Out My Closet. Still, these efforts didn’t do enough to repair the damage already caused.
While management and ownership tried to save the club’s public reputation, they failed to maintain the trust of their staff. An inside source, who requested to remain anonymous, claims that owner Bob Fluet only met with the team once after the lawsuit was published online. During that meeting, he allegedly said he didn’t believe the claims against his business partner, Alan Pikus. Fluet later shared that Pikus was removed from his position as Executive Producer and was no longer a partner in the business.
Staff from The Q, though, claim that former co-owner Alan Pikus was spotted inside the bar as recently as three weeks ago. They said requests for him to be removed from the bar were ignored by management despite their discomfort.
The fallout from the lawsuit with Frankie Sharp was not the end of The Q’s public scrutiny. The club was also associated with the death of political consultant John Umberger who disappeared on May 28, 2022 after a night out at The Q. He was later found dead from an apparent overdose. His death was eventually ruled a homicide by authorities who linked it to the mysterious death of Julio Ramirez, a social worker who suffered a similar fate just a few months prior.
Though criminal indictments have been filed against a gang of men who were responsible for these attacks, The Q’s involvement (even just by the mention of its name) did not help the club’s already messy reputation.
“Things were on the up, then the drugging death story came out, and that really sealed the deal, in my opinion,” said a DJ for The Q about the club’s attempts to stay open amidst the public drama.
“The crowd was odd. It was never the same crowd,” a promoter for The Q said regarding the aftermath of the lawsuit. “It was a teeny bopper tourist club, especially after last year’s fiasco.”
“I did not see it coming at all,” said another one of the club’s promoters. They were one of the many staff members who woke up to the news that the club would be closing its doors effective immediately via email Monday morning.
“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your unwavering dedication to The Q,” owner Bob Fluet said in an email to staff Monday morning that was sent out by his management team. “Your hard work, passion, and commitment to providing our customers with exceptional service, unique programming and world-class entertainment has been remarkable. You’ve made The Q a special place for so many, and for that, I am truly grateful,” he continued.
Though he sang the staff’s praises in an email, neither The Q nor Bob Fluet have made any public announcements regarding the club’s closure. Instead, they left it to the staff to share the news themselves via social media. This may seem oddly familiar to staff who say that promotion for the club was handled the same way.
“Bob basically blamed bartenders for there being no people in the club,” a former staff member shares. He continues to say that the owner of The Q “forced us to post about the club, and if we didn’t, we got our shifts taken away.”
While it may have shocked the public, The Q’s staff might have seen this coming. Staff members say they were told on Friday, March 24 that the club would be closing its doors at the end of June later this year. They all agreed to stay on board until then. Yet, they all woke up to the sudden news that the club was closed for good just three days later.
The Q’s closure isn’t a sudden decision, though. It seems as though they were planning this move for a while because new ownership might already be looking to open the venue up again.
A public hearing for the approval of a new liquor license at the club’s address is set for April 11, 2023. The liquor license application was submitted by PMACS Hospitality. PMACS Hospitality owns The Dickens, a new LGBTQ+ cocktail bar and restaurant just a few doors down from The Q.
If Michael and Patrick McNamee, owners of The Dickens, take over The Q, it isn’t certain whether or not the space will remain a gay venue. The Dickens is their first space to cater to the lgbtq+ community. PMACS owns six other cocktail bars and restaurants in the New York City area.
Whatever they decide to do with the space, they’ll have plenty of potential employees to hire. The Q’s sudden closure has left dozens of employees and independent contractors out of work. Many of the DJs, drag performers, security guards, bartenders, barbacks, managers, promoters, and other staff members are now turning to social media looking for work. With so many businesses still struggling to stay afloat after the pandemic, they are worried they won’t find a job.
A request for comment to club owner Bob Fluet was unanswered at the time this article was written.
Kevin Ortega-Rojas is a NYC based writer and podcaster who focuses on LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities. He is the host of BYLATINMEN The Podcast.
1 thought on “The Q Closure Left Dozens of Gay Employees Jobless”
Another drug den gone…hopefully the lives of a lot of young gay men will be saved by this.