SAN MARCOS, Texas — One of the first gay bars in San Marcos, Stonewall Warehouse, closed on New Year's Day. But employees said they did not get a heads up.
It's a small bar in a small town with a huge impact.
"It almost feels like our childhood home is like being taken away," May Magdalene said.
Drag queens May Magdalene, Veronica Valentine and Mars all got their start at Stonewall Warehouse on The Square.
"I moved to San Marcos, Texas State, and that was my first exploration and seeing this whole world of, you know, who I actually am and people that were like me as well," May Magdalene said.
It was a place not just for them but for any young students trying to find themselves.
"You didn't even have to be a drag queen," Mars said. "Some people would just lip-sync to have fun."
The fun didn't end that way. The bar shut down abruptly on New Year's Day. The owner did not give the them a heads-up before selling it.
"They're not just bartenders to us," Mars said. "They're our family, to the whole staff. We're all really close to them. So, just that they all got laid off on New Year's Day was really hard."
The GoFundMe created by former manager Lena Jacobs makes for a softer landing. In less than 24 hours, they raised more than $5,000.
"Our sisters in New York are hearing about it," Mars said. "Everyone is posting on social media. We have been seeing the network that Stonewall created for itself."
"We have girls from 'RuPaul's Drag Race' posting the GoFundMe right now," May Magdalene added.
Jacobs decided to create the GoFundMe because the entire staff has been left "with no income right at the beginning of the month when bills and rent are due."
"These kids mean everything to me and didn’t deserve this happening to them the way it did. All of the money [donated to the GoFundMe] will go to them. Anything is greatly appreciated," Jacobs wrote on Instagram. "We are heartbroken, we were all very close and still in shock about the events that transpired yesterday. Thank you to the community that has rallied behind us."
Bar owner Jamie Frailicks said that while it's great they have support, he wanted to make it clear: all employees are getting two weeks of pay and the manager received a "healthy amount of money."
Frailicks said the bar wasn't making money, and he didn't warn employees about the sale and closure because "ultimately the dangers and irresponsibility that come with a staff who may have 'nothing to lose' when it comes to running a bar properly would not have been in the best interests of the business, the staff, nor our customers."
"We can't put it into words, like, what that place means to so many people. And to have it just gone one day without a warning is horrible, horrible," Mars said.
The bar's supporters hope the next group of LGBTQ+ patrons can find another Stonewall to build a safe place to find themselves.
"It will be remembered for a very, very, very long time," Veronica Valentine said.
As part of the sale, Stonewall will be revamped and rebranded, according to Frailicks.
Frailicks released the following statement on the closure:
"Earlier this year, I made the tough decision to close a chapter of my professional career, and move on to new opportunities. After months and months of deliberating and negotiations I ultimately made a decision that was in the best interest of my family and the future of my career and that was to sell Stonewall Warehouse. I understood the weight of this decision and the effect that it would have on many people. But after years of trying to improve a failing business, I thought best to take this opportunity and move forward. I am deeply saddened by the results of this decision. I know what Stonewall meant for the LGBTQ Community in San Marcos and I have dedicated 8 years of my life to its cause.
"All I ever wanted was for the Stonewall brand to succeed. I am concerned that there is a false narrative being presented about the facts regarding the closure. I would like to explain that in our industry, the dangers of operating with no tomorrow are too great. I have always maintained an atmosphere of professionalism and responsible service of our most valued guests. No one wanted a proper farewell for Stonewall more than myself but ultimately the dangers and irresponsibility that come with a staff who may have 'nothing to lose' when it comes to running a bar properly would not have been in the best interests of the business, the staff, nor our customers. The day you announce better be the day you close. This has been my experience and I understand that many may disagree.
"There were many tough decisions throughout the last few months. But also understanding what this would mean financially for the staff is why the GM, whose loyalty to myself and the business was undeniable, was offered a healthy amount of money to transition into a new opportunity and also my staff was promised 2 weeks pay beyond the closure. I wanted them to feel taken care of and I feel like I did what I was able to do to assist them financially in what I knew would be a hard time.
"The portrayal that I left the staff 'high and dry' is just simply not true. While I think its great that so many have stepped up to help out the staff financially through GoFundMe, I think it's important that everyone have a complete truth and not selective parts that feed the narrative. We all have tough decisions to make in life. I wish this was a situation where everyone wins. Regrettably, no one has. Thank you to those who have supported Stonewall for the last 8 years. We have had some great times and created lasting memories. I wish good luck to all and appreciate the support for the better part of a decade. Thank you to those who cared. I have always just wanted to do right by you all."