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Albuquerque institution gets a possible lifeline
The health and well-being of New Mexicans aside, the other victim of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been our state’s economy. With restaurants limited in their capacity, theaters still locked shut and bars with no clear opening date on the horizon, some of our favorite places to shop, eat, drink and just plain hang out are going out of business at a frightening pace. Yelp, the online crowdsourced business review site, issued a report in July saying that, between March 1 and July 10, at least 381 New Mexico businesses closed—199 of those closures being permanent. And it’s not just the business owners who are affected by these closures.
For 30-plus years the Albuquerque Social Club has been the granddaddy of local LGBTQ institutions, a safe space in Nob Hill for people of all persuasions to hang out, meet up, chat, dance, drink and—of course—socialize. Like most local businesses, the Social Club—or “The Soch,” as its regulars called it—was forced to close back in March. At the end of August, the club’s board of directors sadly announced that the financially strapped venue would not be reopening. “The state-mandated closure came at a horrible time,” read the board’s public statement. “We actively tried to apply for grants and loans but were ineligible. … This has forced us to make the difficult decision to close the doors to avoid further debt.”
Unwilling to let the institution disappear without a fight, however, members of the local LGBTQ+ community have now organized an online fundraiser. If the GoFundMe campaign #SaveTheSoch can reach its goal of $60,000 by Oct. 30, the club can pay off its tax debt, renew its liquor license and start prepping for eventual reopening. Just over $3,000 was raised in the campaign’s first day alone, and more than $30,000 has been raised since Sept. 14—making the $60,000 goal a real possibility. A parking lot rummage/drag sale on Sept. 26 and 27 helped add to the coffers. Supporters of the cause can even spread the word by purchasing #SaveTheSoch t-shirts ($25 each) through customink.com.
Albuquerque artist and filmmaker Brandon Scott Jensen is one of the many loyal locals who have pitched in to help out. “As an openly bisexual man, I understand how important safe spaces are. And the fact that, due to COVID, we are already losing resources to us.” Jesen designed and launched the SaveTheSoch website, which links many of the campaign’s diverse efforts. “The idea of possibly being able to contribute in some small way was a no brainer,” says Jensen. “My efforts to help brand this campaign via buying the URL savethesoch.com and contributing as much graphic design as I can is really the only thing I can do (other than spend money, which I am also doing). I hope that it’s helping on some level.”
More than just a popular bar, The Social Club has exhibited countless queer-themed art exhibits, hosted legendary Pride Parade parties, served as a home for groups like the Wilde Bunch gay and lesbian square dancers and raised tens of thousands of dollars for various charities. It’s no wonder so many people are willing to help out—and why #SaveTheSoch is a third of the way to its goal in just a couple of weeks. Those who fondly remember Albuquerque’s “Gay Cheers”—from patrons who spent time there to drag and burlesque performers who produced shows there—are doing everything they can to spread the word through social media, hoping that #SaveTheSoch can save at least one Albuquerque business from death by COVID.
To learn more about the Albuquerque Social Club, go to savethesoch.com. To contribute to the campaign, go to gofundme.com/f/savethesoch.