Eight months into this covid pandemic and what does that mean for the survival of gay bathhouses?
These establishments were already hanging by their fingernails, but with Covid and being shutdown for eight months?
From the article Gay bathhouses were barely surviving. And then came COVID-19 by Adam M. Rhodes
But even in the world of bathhouses and rentable dungeons, impacts of the pandemic are not created equal.
Smaller, locally-owned spaces like Chicago Dungeon Rentals are under greater threat than corporate-owned chains like Steamworks, which has locations in Seattle, Berkeley, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Chase says she had to shut down her dungeons completely during the Chicago stay-at-home order, and since the gradual reopening, her business is roughly half of what it was before the pandemic. As someone who is immunocompromised, Chase says she will not be able to safely work until there is a vaccine available.
And though it might go without saying, corporate-owned chains are much more likely to weather the economic fallout from 2020’s compounding crises than your average mom-and-pop bathhouse.
“Smaller local organizations just don’t have the resources to go a year with no income, you know, while you’re still paying rent bills and things like that,” Wasdin says. “So yeah, I think there’s a huge likelihood that some of them will close.”
If there is a silver lining to any of this—and it would be a microscopically thin lining at that—it’s that the pandemic has illuminated among many queer folk and queer adjacents just how important these safe spaces are to the community.
And hopefully, Wasdin says, that translates to visitors and financial support for these spaces once the pandemic is over.
“Our gathering spaces are dwindling, but at the same time, I feel like during the pandemic, at least we’re reminded about how important those spaces are,” Wasdin says. “It’s human nature, we take things for granted, we expect they’ll always be there. So it feels like at least many of us have maybe developed a greater understanding and appreciation that those spaces are still open.”
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