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Community raises $25,000 to save The Side Quest bar in Lakewood

Posted at 9:03 PM, May 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-09 23:18:45-04

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — While restaurants, bars and other businesses prepare to reopen in Ohio, customers may find that some of their favorite places might not open up again.

The pink placard from the Tax Commissioner still on The Side Quest’s front door Saturday shows just how close that bar came to closing for good.

“It’s just the floor falling out from under you,” said General Manger and Owner Sam Bridgeman, referring to the business falling behind on its sales tax.

Bridgeman said a slow winter ordinarily would have been quickly forgotten with a lively spring.

“Mid-March is one of our busiest times of the year,” Bridgeman said. “We have St. Patrick’s Day, Harry Potter Pride Week. Between the two of those, that’s like $25,000.”

Instead, right at the time when The Side Quest needed those customers the most, Ohio began closing down businesses to stop the spread of coronavirus.

With an order to close, The Side Quest struggled financially. Even a $3,000 grant from the City of Lakewood only covered most of the bar’s monthly rent.

The last-ditch effort was a $25,000 fundraising campaign.

“You’re at such a loss and then you just have all this love and all this giving from so many people,” Bridgeman said.

Over a span of three weeks in April, customers who otherwise might have come through the doors made it possible for them to one day swing open again.

More than 500 donations, many of them between $10 and $50, eventually added up to cover all of the bar’s costs.

“It’s a bar where we’ve tried to build such a community,” Bridgeman said. “Now, it’s being built even more so by the community. It’s their bar. I feel like I’m almost just a caretaker to make it the way they want it to be.”

The Side Quest is also printing a cocktail book called “A Year of Queer Cocktails,” with recipes and instructions to help people make the bar’s cocktails at home. The book will eventually be available for purchase as another way for the bar to raise money.

Bridgeman said the bar now has the money to pay the sales tax and remove the sign from the front door.

The Side Quest is not planning on opening to the public on May 21, the date provided by Gov. Mike DeWine allowing businesses to welcome customers back inside as long as they follow proper social distancing guidelines. Bridgeman said the bar will open after first watching how the reopening effort works for other businesses.