Shelley Brothers doesn’t know how much longer her bar can survive. For 17 years, Brothers has been co-owner of Wildrose, a homey storefront bar with giant windows overlooking Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The bar, which has been open since 1984, has persisted even as spaces for queer women have become an endangered species: Wildrose is the only remaining full-time lesbian bar in Seattle, one of just a dozen such spaces left across the country.
But as queer spaces struggle to stay afloat amid rising rents, gentrification, and competition from dating apps, these issues aren’t the most immediate threats to Wildrose’s existence. The bar, like every other nightclub in Seattle and many others around the globe, has effectively ceased operation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order last month closing all non-essential businesses in the state, which has been extended through May 4. The Evergreen State has been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, with more than 10,500 confirmed cases at the time of publication.
Bars and restaurants in Washington have been permitted to offer take-out for customers, and initially, Wildrose tried to keep its weekly Taco Tuesdays alive through to-go orders. But Brothers said her business “can’t really afford to do it.”