Phoenix is 2,000 miles away from Florida, but when there was a mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse Nightclub in 2016, Stacy's @ Melrose owner, Stacy Louis, sprung into action, putting together a livestreamed telethon to raise funds and support for the victims.
Now, nine months into a pandemic, Louis is the one who needs a helping hand. He's started a $150,000 GoFundMe campaign that aims to keep his west Phoenix LGBTQ bar alive, citing Stacy's "dire" financial predicament as a result of COVID-19.
"It was a horribly difficult thing for me to do to ask for money," Louis says. "I figured it was the only way I could make it."
Louis opened Stacy's in 2013 as an "everybody bar," he says. "I treated everyone equally and didn’t allow customers in who didn’t agree with my concept."
In between the drag shows, theme parties, and general merriment found inside the lively nightspot, Stacy's has been the locale for countless charity events benefiting organizations like one-n-ten, which helps LGBTQ youth who have been disowned by their families; the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS; and Phoenix Pride, of which Louis is a board member. (It's also won several New Times Best of Phoenix Awards.)
Louis doesn't see giving back as an option — it's a deep-seated value. "I don’t know what the difference is between wanting to do it, and it being part of my soul," he says.
Business was good at Stacy's in the early part of 2020. The bar closed on March 17, and COVID-related government grants and loans didn't make much of a difference for Louis or his staff, he says.
Now, Stacy's is six months behind on its rent. Salaries need to be paid, as do other bills. Stacy's reopened in September, but social distancing and the bar's small space only allow Louis to operate at 25 percent capacity. He makes the staff and customers adhere to the strictest safety measures: The moment a patron leaves their seat, they have to put a mask on. And Louis constantly worries that despite his best efforts, someone could get sick.
Although business at Stacy's is relatively good for the diminished capacity, the revenue can't keep the business afloat, and it can't start to make up the money Louis lost over the spring and summer. Which is where the GoFundMe comes in.
Stacy's patron Ryan Starzyk says that the demise of the bar would be a blow to the LGBTQ community.
"Since the day he opened, his biggest focus was really to do everything he could to give back to the community," Starzyk says. "Without Stacy's, we wouldn’t have that safe space where we could raise money for the community to help each other out.
"Stacy has been there for so many people — as a mentor, as a friend, as an ally. And he’s done so much, and we need to as a community step up and give a little help to him."