San Francisco nightlife hotspot, Oasis, hosted a 12-hour live online event on Saturday in an attempt at raising money to avoid permanently closing its doors.
The “Save The Oasis” telethon, broadcasted on its streaming service Oasis TV, consisted of live and pre-recorded performances; an auction of art, wigs and dresses; and a phone bank of drag queens taking calls from donors.
On Givebutter, the site used by Oasis to raise money, over $250,000 has already been donated, with five days remaining. The original goal of the fundraiser was $100,000.
A $100 anonymous donor commented on the website, “The Oasis has been the artistic home for so many and we would be a poorer community without this venue.”
Oasis has tried many ways to stay active and remain financially stable by creating a food and show delivery service, Meals on Heels, and a weekly streaming service for live drag shows: Oasis TV.
SisterRoma, one of the co-hosts for the event, which took place March 6, understands the impacts of the pandemic on drag performances.
“Everything closed down in mid-March and by April 1st every drag queen in San Francisco had a webcam and a green screen,” she wrote in an email to Xpress. “It’s been a challenge to host and perform virtually, but you can’t keep us down!”
Seriously, Oasis has been the spot for live shows, dance parties, viewing parties, rallies, fundraisers, you name it, it happens at Oasis and everyone is welcome.”
Oasis has been a home for many in the queer community since it first opened its door six years ago, according to the Givebutter page.
When asked about what sets Oasis apart from other clubs in the city, Sister Roma replied, “The dressing room! It’s almost as big as the main dance floor and lined with brightly lit mirrors. You can tell it’s owned by drag queens.”
When Heklina and D’Arcy Drollinger first opened the club, a lot of thought went into making the space as accessible and spacious as possible.
“I always found the stages to be kind of lackluster in some venues, either too small or too far away from the dressing rooms,” co-founder and performer Heklina said.
According to Heklina, Oasis is a club built for the performers, which is what makes it such a hit with the audiences.
“Seriously, Oasis has been the spot for live shows, dance parties, viewing parties, rallies, fundraisers, you name it, it happens at Oasis and everyone is welcome,” Roma said.
Heklina said that Oasis is important for cities like San Francisco that are slowly becoming more homogeneous and losing their unique spirit; A spirit which is what drew so many people, like Heklina, to live here in the first place.
“Oasis is one of the last bastions of that San Francisco feel,” Heklina said.
Sister Roma pointed out the necessity to keep queer community spaces open. “LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses were struggling before the pandemic. We really can’t afford to lose Oasis,” Roma said.
Studies show gay bar listings declined 18.6 % from 2012 to 2017. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is contributing to this problem.
It’s imperative to give back to the queer institutions that make this city one worth living in. Bars and nightclubs have always been the meeting place for our community.”
— Juanita More
San Francisco’s oldest LGBT club, The Stud, closed its door in May 2020, due to a lack of revenue caused by the pandemic shutdowns.
Juanita More, a drag queen, philanthropist and activist in the city, wrote in an email to Xpress, “It’s imperative to give back to the queer institutions that make this city one worth living in. Bars and nightclubs have always been the meeting place for our community.”
Though the pandemic has been a bleak time for many in the drag world, there still remains a firm sense of optimism for the future of queer nightlife in San Francisco.
“If we can all just hold on, get vaccinated, and put this pandemic behind us I am 1000% confident that Oasis and other venues like it will not only survive, they will THRIVE,” Roma said. “We are all in desperate need for a carefree night out at the club!”