COVID-19 forces closing of Fredericton's only LGBTQ nightclub
After 15 years in business, Boom! Nightclub is shutting its doors
Losses attributed to COVID-19 have forced a popular LGBTQ nightclub in Fredericton to close its doors.
Boom! Nightclub's drag performances, shimmery curtains and colourful parties featuring glow sticks and karaoke nights have been a staple of Fredericton's LGBTQ community for 15 years.
"Although it was just four walls and a roof to most people, it was a home. It was somewhere that at the end of the work week, or the end of the day, you could go and be yourself," said Mitchell Goodine, a Boom! drag queen.
Goodine moved to Fredericton in 2008 to study nursing at the University of New Brunswick.
The local drag queen said the cozy and supportive environment at Boom! helped him feel comfortable to come out years later. The downtown nightclub also helped him find his identity in his drag persona, Amour Love. He also became an advocate for banning gay conversion therapy.
"Boom! was the only place that actually accepted me for who I was before I even knew it."
Boom! announced its closure through a Facebook post Friday night, citing financial losses incurred from COVID-19. The post came on the same day the province announced all New Brunswick businesses could reopen.
"It has been 105 days since we were forced to close our doors on March 13th due to COVID-19, and during that time we were left not knowing when, or if, we would be permitted to reopen or to what capacity," the post said.
"Unfortunately, with the new limitations, the past and future loss is too great."
CBC tried reaching Boom! for comment on the weekend, but did not receive a response.
The post said closing the nightclub was a "tough pill to swallow," but maintaining it was no longer financially stable.
Boom! opened its doors in 2004.
It was one of several LGBTQ bar to appear in Fredericton since the 1980s, according to Meredith J. Batt, vice-president of the Queer Heritage Initiative of New Brunswick.
The city's former LGBTQ bars included Dance Trax (late 1980s and early 1990s), Curt's Dance Warehouse (mid-1990s), Phoenix Rising (1997-98), G-Spot (1998-2001), Club 624 (2001-02) and Club Lynx (2002-03), Peter Acheson, also known as Boom!'s DJ Dansor, said in an email.
LGBTQ home in Fredericton
Boom!'s closure comes at the tail end of Pride month and weeks before New Brunswick's virtual province-wide Pride organized by Fierté Fredericton Pride, River of Pride and Saint John Pride.
Amelia Thorpe, co-chair of Fierté Fredericton Pride, often attended karaoke nights at Boom! with her partner. Boom! was a central pillar of the queer and transgender community in Fredericton, she said.
"Boom! was a place where I personally felt comfortable being present with my partner, being myself," Thorpe said.
Goodine has performed at other bars in the city, but said he always felt like Boom! was his home.
"I just felt more comfortable knowing that I wasn't being judged and looked at and made fun of."
The closure has left members of the LGBTQ community wondering where they can turn to for a guaranteed welcoming space in the city.
It also means drag queens like Goodine have one less place to perform at.
"I can't imagine not having a safe space anymore to be able to go to be able to express myself," he said, choking up.
"Other places may be accommodating, but you always felt that you're not the cool kids, right?"
Loss of a safe space
Goodine said he's concerned about what the loss of a LGBTQ safe space could mean for people who are just beginning to question their identity.
In its sign-off, Boom! expressed hope that someone would take over the business and maintain its presence in the community as a safe space.
Goodine, Batt and Thorpe also hope another physical space for the LGTBQ community will emerge.
Batt would like to see a community-centre-like space where activities for LGBTQ youth could be held in the day and parties could take place in the evening.
Goodine hopes the next safe space will focus on serving the LGBTQ community over generating profit.
"It can't just be something that somebody wants to make money off of the [LGBTQ rainbow] flag, he said. "And I'm concerned about who comes next."