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Pride St. Louis to close its LGBTQ community center, citing financial reasons

Riley Brimmer, 12, looks down Market Street during the 2017 PrideFest Grand Pride Parade in downtown St. Louis on June 25, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
People at the 2017 PrideFest parade watch as floats pass by and people walk in the downtown parade. Pride St. Louis is known for PrideFest, which partly funds its Pride Center.

Pride St. Louis will close its LGBTQ community center on Jan. 1 and suspend its programming.

The organization decided to close PrideCenter at 3738 Chouteau Ave. near Grand Avenue because it lost revenue when it had to cancel events and limit crowds during the coronavirus pandemic. The center opened in January 2017.

“We haven't had a festival in two years. That's one of our biggest kind of funding sources that sustains the center,” said Brandon Reid, president of Pride St. Louis. “Therefore, we were just not able to financially continue to center at the current rate of the rent.”

Since the community could not use the center for months last year due to the city’s occupancy restrictions, Reid said the organization made a financial decision to close the center down.

For LGBTQ people, the PrideCenter was a focal point in the community. Many used the center to connect with support groups, share meals, attend lecture series and read books.

Pride St. Louis will host its Thanksgiving dinner this year. The organization's leaders will continue to post community information to social media and its website.

Although the center is closing, that won’t stop Pride St. Louis from serving the community, said Jordan Braxton, the organization’s diversity, inclusion and outreach director.

“If people reach out, I will direct them to the other agencies and organizations and businesses that can handle their need,” she said. “We are very well connected at Pride St. Louis to people who can help you write a resume, who do clothing, who do HIV treatment.”

Reid said the organization applied for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan last year but did not qualify for one. Organizers also applied unsuccessfully for some grant funding to support the center.

The organization's biggest fundraiser is PrideFest, which helps finance the center, but over the past two years, PrideFest did not bring in as much funding as it had in previous years.

Pride St. Louis is just now starting to recover financially from the pandemic and is planning PrideFest 2022, Reid said.

“I think after we reassess after having the festival, we can certainly explore other options,” Reid said. “If possible, move into a new center, maybe restructuring the way the resource center is set up, maybe doing a virtual, online-type of center.”

Losing the center will come as a big loss to many.

Randy Rafter remembers when the PrideCenter opened its doors four years ago. He started hanging out with friends there and attending lecture series and meetings. But he said his most memorable moments are the holiday celebrations and participating in the center’s roundtables with LGBTQ community leaders.

“Having that type of safe space where you can be open and honest and to be able to be yourself freely, it's important,” said Rafter, president of Black Pride St. Louis. “And unfortunately, we're going to have to do that in some virtual and different spaces.”

He said it’s disheartening to lose the center because it was a safe space for the LGBTQ community, and especially for people of color.

“This is not the first time that we've had a community center here in the St. Louis metropolitan area that we have to close down,” Rafter said. “And just because it’s going away for now doesn’t mean it won’t come back in the future.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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