Gio’s Club and Bar, one of North America’s oldest GLBT clubs, has experienced severe financial trouble over the past year and faced the threat of closing last month.
The non-profit club managed to keep its doors open due to two weeks of vigorous fundraising, such as events held over the weekend of Sept. 23-25 and the “Buy a Brick Campaign,” where individuals or organizations can donate money to decorate a brick on the club’s patio.
Jay Rich, president of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Society Inc., which runs Gio’s Club and Bar, explained that through two of their campaigns, the club raised seven months’ rent in two weeks. However, the club is still $35,000 in debt.
“While the fundraising has been a success so far, we cannot stop,” Rich stated.
Increased social networking, a more open society, and competing clubs have all contributed to Gio’s current financial trouble.
The staff at Gio’s Club and Bar have been working as volunteers for several
months; one of the next goals of fundraising is to start paying them again as well as paying off debt.
Gio’s fundraising has received support from many members of the community including the Rainbow Resource Centre and the Rainbow Pride Mosaic.
Chad Smith, executive director for the Rainbow Resource Centre, said he was “surprised and saddened” that Gio’s was at risk of closing down.
Smith explained the club has a long history in the city and the community. He said in the ’70s Gio’s was a “safe space in a time when homophobia was rampant.”
“During the 1980s and the early 1990s when the AIDS crisis hit, [Gio’s] was a huge player in terms of raising awareness, raising money to provide support [ . . . ] and just some of the basics for folks that had HIV and Aids,” he said.
Smith also said it’s important for Gio’s to stay open because it is a non-profit club and continues to give back to the community.
He said it was sad that the non-profit club might shut down because of new bars that won’t last long, and that, if Gio’s closed down, people might not notice the impact immediately, but in the long term there would be “a big void.”
David Vo, coordinator of the Rainbow Pride Mosaic (RPM), said it was important for Gio’s to stay open because it is a “great community club and bar” and because of Gio’s Cares, a charitable organization it runs to help those living with HIV and AIDS.
Vo said the RPM has spoken with many people on campus who were surprised and concerned about the bar’s potential closure.
“I don’t think the community on campus realized how bad the situation was for Gio’s,” he said.
RPM used donations from students and members to participate in the “Buy and Brick Campaign” on behalf of the organization.
Kyle St Godard, UMSU’s LGBTTQ* community representative, explained that Gio’s made his personal coming out experience easier.
Godard also said if the bar were to close down, it would eliminate possibilities for students that they would be unable to find at other bars.
“Gio’s has been more than just a bar for us,” said Godard.