Sudden closure of San Marcos’ only gay bar rattles LGBTQ community
Stonewall Warehouse, the first and only dedicated gay bar in San Marcos, closed its doors Jan. 1.
Owner Jamie Frailicks said he felt it was time to move on from Stonewall, but he will continue to operate the downstairs bar, Freddy C's.
Former manager Lena Jacobs said it broke her heart when she got the news because she knows how much Stonewall meant to the community.
“Stonewall was so special. We had every kind of person in there just being who they wanna be, being free," she said. "And not just gay people, but straight people, men, women, everyone.”
Stonewall Warehouse opened in 2014 and made a name for itself as the only LGBTQ+ bar between San Antonio and Austin. It's named after the Stonewall riots that took place in New York in the late '60s and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the U.S.
"I think there's a big hole in the community," Jacobs said. "To some people, it was the only place they felt safe to go in town. I'm sure hundreds are now without somewhere to go."
Jacobs said the nightclub was packed for a New Year's Eve party that brought in great sales. The dance floor teemed with life, colorful lights glossed over the crowd and drag queens gave it their all on stage.
“It was so amazing and fun,” she said.
Jacobs said she was glad the bar went out with a bang, but would’ve done things differently if she had known it was their last night.
“There were people that weren’t there that would’ve wanted to be there if they knew,” she said.
On Sunday, the staff was called into a meeting and told the bar had already been sold and they were all out of a job.
"I started crying," Jacobs said. "It was very shocking. I don't think I said one word the whole time."
Frailicks said he spent months talking things over with his family before making the decision to sell the space.
“This is a bar and brand in a community that I’ve dedicated eight years of my life to,” he said. “But ultimately, when you run a business, a business needs to have financial success.”
He said the decision to give the staff no notice was intentional; he felt it was the safest route to take when closing down a business.
"Operating with the promise of no tomorrow ... the time between when you announce and when you close can be chaotic," Frailicks said. "It can mean that people are irresponsible, that people don't do what they're supposed to be doing."
The business had been failing for close to five years, according to Frailicks, but former employees said they had no idea Stonewall was struggling.
Bartender Dee Smith got paid $2.13 an hour and made most of his money on tips. He said the staff has yet to receive the two weeks' worth of pay they were promised and weren't told how much they’d be getting.
“I’m put in a spot where I’m deciding if I’m gonna pay rent and eat or pay off my student loans," he said.
Jacobs created a GoFundMe page to help her “kids,” as she calls the employees, make it through the month. So far she has raised nearly $9,000 from supporters across the state.
“I didn’t know it was gonna blow up like this,” she said. “All I want is for them to be OK, and I know they will be. We’re not the first people this has happened to, and I’m sure we won’t be the last.”
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