The Back Door, an LGBTQIA+ bar, has been closed for more than six months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since it has no money coming in, it is surviving off loans, owner Smoove G said.
Smoove G said the bar made the decision to stay closed because many places that have reopened have had cases of COVID-19. She said a bar is one of the most high-risk places to be, which means it’s not safe for the staff or the patrons.
Kyle Anderson, an economist at the IU Kelley School of Business at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis, said it’s especially hard for bars to operate in any way, especially when they have zero revenue. Due to ongoing expenses, such as rent, this means bars will be taking a loss every month.
“For me, I’d rather stay closed than kill somebody,” Smoove G said.
The Back Door is only a bar, with no restaurant, so the restrictions feel tighter for them, she said. She said she thinks no one will go to a bar for take-out drinks when they could go to Big Red and get it for cheaper.
Patrons also can’t wear masks if they’re having a drink, Smoove G said. If they are having to constantly take their mask off, it defeats the point of wearing it, she said.
“You’re coming to a bar for a social experience, entertainment, dancing and fun and hanging out with your friends,” Smoove G said. “It’s a lot different when you can’t do any of that.”
Even though the state has proceeded with reopening, she is focusing on the opinion of scientists and doctors for whether it’s safe to reopen right now. Smoove G said she feels like the state has set many arbitrary deadlines and hasn’t been taking the pandemic seriously enough.
“I’d rather lead by example than follow decisions the state is making that I’m not convinced is based on scientific fact,” she said.
The Back Door hopes to use their outdoor patio for business soon. In an ideal situation, the bar would have a more inviting outdoor space with a stage for drag shows where it is safer for people to gather.A dance floor won’t be possible until there’s a vaccine, Smoove G said.
The Back Door will still face challenges when it reopens, Anderson said. If business is generating less revenue, it could be a challenge for it to be profitable.
“There’s a fine line of having to wait long enough until it’s safe enough to have a significant number of people back,” he said.
Another challenge for the Back Door when it reopens will be having experienced employees. Smoove G said many of their employees have found other jobs or are on unemployment.
Employees that are on unemployment have to be actively looking for other work, Anderson said. This means that the Back Door may not have the experienced bartenders or servers that it’s used to having.
Going into the winter, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what will happen to the COVID-19 positivity rates, Smoove G said. She’s hopeful that next year will be better for the Back Door
“I can’t wait to party with y’all again,” she said. “I just want it to be as safe as it can be, and now is not the time.”
Smoove G uses both she/her and they/them pronouns. Smoove G is the name she goes by at the bar.