No matter what area of the country you are in, it is pretty much determined that bars and nightclubs are going to be the last businesses to reemerge following the global pandemic that has impacted businesses everywhere. While some have managed to stay afloat offering amenities like food and to-go cocktails, there are going to be some that simply are not able to recover from not being able to serve their patrons for this extended period of time. Unfortunately, Therapy in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood is one of the first major NYC LGBTQ nightlife establishments to shutter following the extended closure.
Therapy co-owner Tom Johnson announced the closing on the bar’s Facebook page saying: “It’s with tears in our eyes that we have to admit it is highly unlikely that Therapy will ever reopen. Everyone of YOU who has ever worked here, performed here, partied here… We love you. And though we cannot be together today, always know you are Therapy’s family.”
As soon as the closing of Therapy was announced, performers, DJ’s and patrons of this now legendary nightlife establishment took to social media to pay homage to the place that many of them got their start, had their first cocktail, and made some mildly fuzzy, but distinctly amazing memories. Paige Turner, who hosted Slurp Sundays, told me “What can I say?-COVID-19 has taken a lot from us both physically and mentally, but it will never take away the amazing memories, laughter, and community that Therapy has brought over the years. I am proud to have worked there for seven years with such an amazing staff that is family and will hold these memories close to my heart; SLURP! “
Performer, activist and now City Council candidate Marti Gould Cummings was the host of Stage Fright at Therapy and told me “for over 5 years we gathered on Mondays to celebrate drag an Broadway coming together. Stage Fright had over one hundred and fifty performers. We had Oscar nominees, and Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Grammy winners, along with legends and new stars. It was a thrill and an honor to get to share this show each week alongside my incredible musical director Bradford Proctor.”
As a cast member of The Help, Pixie Aventura performed alongside almost everyone in New York City nightlife and helped make Therapy a drag destination. Pixie shared her memories of working at Therapy in depth, and spoke of sisterhood, the professionalism. of the staff at Therapy, and her love for the patrons that came to see she and her fellow performers in The Help week after week.
As we continue to hear (so far) unsubstantiated rumors and buzz about other nightlife establishments meeting a similar fate due to COVID-19, Bob Pontarelli, owner of New York City LGBT nightlife destinations like Industry, Elmo and Barracuda set the record straight with New York City journalist/bon vivant Michael Musto
(Bob gives a speech at the 20th Anniversary party for Barraduca)
Musto said “I have heard that some gay bars, sadly enough, will never reopen. I’ll update you as I hear more. But a rumor that Barracuda, Industry, and Elmo restaurant are shuttering for good is FALSE. I just talked to the owner of all three, Bob Pontarelli, who said, “What you’re hearing about my places is not true. Who knows when they’ll reopen? Industry has a difficult landlord—we’ll see how that plays out. Anything could happen. But that’s not the reality right now. “Elmo is open for outdoor. We have no intention of closng. We’ve had a limited menu for just outside, but we’re expanding it. Barracuda wants to keep us for a long, long time. “At the end of the day, survival comes down to the landlords. The government has provided virtually nothing to help small businesses to survive. People are going to go to work, but there’ll be nowhere to go to work because they haven’t provided support for the businesses. It really comes down to the rent for everybody and the relationship you have with the landlord. It boils down to greed. Barracuda will open the second we can. I suspect it’ll be much longer than anyone suspects.”
“But this empire is not dead, so let’s keep applauding and make the rebirth happen asap”.