Carl Currie, manager at Blackstones in Portland (in red) stands behind the long-standing gay bar's new window on June 16, 2019. The bar started an online fundraising campaign in a bid to stay viable for reopening in the post-pandemic future. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — The city’s only LGBTQ bar has been shuttered since the start of the pandemic in March. Now, after eight months with closed doors, dry beer taps and a silent cash register, Blackstones is asking for the public’s help to stay in business.

Manager Carl Currie started an online fundraising campaign last week with a goal of $25,000. Currie said that should tide the bar over until April. As of midday Monday, Blackstone’s was nearly halfway to that financial finish line.

“As we are about to enter the ninth month of self finance, we have come to the end of our means. The last month has shown that this crisis is far from over. This space is in danger,” Currie wrote with the online pitch.

First opened on Pine Street in 1987, Blackstones is known for its laid back, neighborhood vibe. Anti-gay vandals repeatedly smashed the front windows out with rocks and bricks in the early days. In 1991, the windows were boarded up and stayed that way for 28 years. In 2019, the boards finally came down and new, full-length windows were installed.

In recent years, with the closing of the city’s other, more dance-oriented LGBTQ club, Styxx, Blackstones has become the hub of the local drag scene. In January, a capacity crowd of nearly 600 people saw Gigi Gabor win the 2020 Miss Blackstones Drag Queen Pageant at Port City Music Hall.

The pandemic has already claimed Port City Music Hall. It closed for good in July. Blackstones is trying to avoid a similar fate, asking its loyal patrons to donate at least the amount they would have paid for a drink, could they get one.

Drag queen Cherry Lemonade crowns Gigi Gabor the winner of the 2020 Miss Blackstones Drag Queen Pageant in Portland on Jan. 25, 2020. The annual event is one of the two biggest drag shows in the state. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

“Unfortunately, with no end in sight to the pandemic and no sign of aid from the government, the time has come for us to ask for help from our community,” reads a post from the bar on its Facebook page. “Blackstones, as many of you know, is not just a bar. For many of us it is a home, a family, a lifeline, a safe space to be our individual selves and meet others like us.”

By Monday, 156 individual donors had chipped in bits of cash.

“Blackstones is part of our neighborhood and we support all it stands for,” wrote one donor.

“Queer spaces are sacred,” wrote another.

In a cost-saving measure, Currie had the phone disconnected at the bar. Google then listed the establishment as permanently closed, but Currie said that is not the case.

“We have to reopen. The show must go on,” the bar wrote, on social media. “We miss you and we love you.”

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.