How to Support LA’s LGBTQ Businesses During the COVID-19 Shutdown

With Los Angeles on lockdown as residents use social distancing to quell the spread of Coronavirus, it’s easy to shut yourself off from the rest of the world, local economy be damned. But not leaving your house doesn’t have to mean the LGBTQ-owned businesses you regularly support suffer in this time of need. There are ways to sustain our local LGBTQ restaurants, shops, and artists in the days and weeks ahead without ever leaving your humble abode.

Keep ordering your favorite foods

For the time being, restaurants aren’t able to host guests for sit-down service, but many still have their kitchens running food, encouraging us to order delivery or takeout. And thanks to services like Uber Eats, Doordash, Grubhub, Caviar and Postmates waiving sign-up fees for new restaurants, chances are your go-to spots have found a way to get you the dishes you’re craving.

Restaurants like East Side neighborhood staple The Kitchen and West Hollywood’s Tex-Mex mainstay Marix have kept delivering to hungry Angelenos through one or more of the apps above. A few restaurants, like Chef Jon Rollo’s fast casual Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, have built their own apps for ordering directly, while others can take your order right from their website, like ice cream purveyors Coolhaus (where ground shipping is included when you order a pint).

As Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his March 17 press conference about local eateries, “Do your part if you can to make sure these businesses stay alive and that their employees stay employed.”

Look to the web for staying fit

With the gym off-limits in the time of Covid-19, some of our favorite LGBTQ personal trainers and local gyms have gotten creative in order to keep customers healthy despite being physically isolated. While several fitness pros have relied on virtual training sessions for years, many are posting exclusive (and free!) video content on social media platforms, where tips and tricks are easy to find with a little hashtag-sleuthing. 

Beth Bishop, owner of The Phoenix Effect, has effectively moved her entire gym’s programming online, a major feat for a studio that specializes in high-energy group classes. She’s created a robust online fitness community that doubles as a social circle, offering everything from workouts and workshops to yoga classes and cooking demos through Zoom and social media. “We're trying to really take care of people physically and mentally,” Bishop says. 

Go on a quarantined shopping spree

These days it seems the entire world is used to shopping from the comfort of a couch, though that’s become more necessity than convenience of late. That said, online shopping is also one of the easiest ways to throw your support behind LGBTQ-owned businesses of all kinds. 

Loads of L.A. brands -- including the aforementioned restaurants and gyms -- sell branded merch in addition to their typical wares, and those items’ higher profit margins can make them even more helpful in a time like this. Gift cards are another great way to show support, especially if there's an experience you’d rather enjoy once the pandemic has calmed. And let’s not forget our local LGBTQ artists: purchase their work, commission a piece of art, or throw some money their way in whatever ways make sense. 

Tip drag queens with the press of a button

Even the art form of drag, typically enjoyed while buzzed and hugging the stage in one of our local bars or clubs, has found a way to survive and thrive in the time of Coronavirus. “Digital drag shows” are truly proof that no one brings more ingenuity to the table than our LGBTQ community. Friday, March 20, saw the largest digital drag show to date take place on Twitch, hosted by L.A.-based Dragula winner Biqtch Puddin and featuring the talents of more than 30 performers. A $10 suggested donation ensured the drag queens and kings got paid, while viewers were also able to tip via performers’ PayPal and Venmo links. Keep your eyes glued to the social feeds of your favorite queens for more of these queer quarantine gigs.

Continue to be social, but do it digitally

In these unprecedented times, when keeping physical distance between our friends and family is key to beating this pandemic, it’s important to remember that social distancing doesn’t require self-isolation. For your own mental health -- and to fight the boredom that can accompany a lack of in-person interaction -- you should try to maintain your social network remotely. 

Look to your preferred social media platforms for staying informed and checking up on loved ones. Luckily for LGBTQ folks, there are countless digital social networks that cater to our community specifically, like Hornet, an app where 25 million guys from around the world connect to the broader community through shared content, and Her, a community of 4 million lesbian, bisexual, and queer womxn looking to find their match. Both apps are created by and for LGBTQ people.

Until the day our lives go back to normal and Covid-19 is in the rearview mirror, let’s all throw some support behind our resilient local LGBTQ community. There’s only one way we all get through this pandemic, and that’s by banding together and supporting one another.

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Stephan Horbelt arrived in Los Angeles nearly 20 years ago and never wants to leave. He's currently Executive Editor of the international gay social network Hornet.