Wearing a Stonewall Inn t-shirt, Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka didn’t hesitate to say that the LGBTQ club will go on, after a mass shooting that left 5 dead and many more hurt.
“It has to go on, when you hear the stories and you understand what it means to this community,” he said.
He could not speak to a timeline, nor to what the re-opened business would look like.
“We don’t know what the community is going to want from that space. A dance floor? A lounge? A bar? A park out front?”
His intention, and that of his business partner, is to keep Club Q’s employees on the payroll in the meantime. They have started a fundraiser for that purpose.
Grzecka also expressed faith in the Colorado Healing Fund, which has come under scrutiny.
“That is going to go to help victims, families, and survivors that are directly affected,” he said. “People need to donate to where their heart is.”
Grzecka also made clear that he believes the attack was a hate crime.
“I don’t think there’s a way it’s not,” he said. “I don’t believe someone could do this without hating so badly.”
Grzecka spoke with Colorado Matters Senior Host Ryan Warner. Here are highlights from their conversation.
Ryan Warner: How are you doing? Are you even sure how you're doing?
Nic Grzecka: I don't know how I'm doing, and I guess I am sure of that. It's different each day, each hour. We're staying together as a [Club Q] family, employees and performers. As we navigate through each day, our emotions change.
Have you gotten any quiet time, any downtime?
I think it took about 10 days for the world to settle down around us, and for us to be able to be together in silence and be alone.
What was that like?
It was different. It's part of the healing process, I guess, to have to be by yourself in your own thoughts. For the first night of it, it had me going everywhere in my head. “What's the future? What was the past?” So each day that you get a little bit more silence, I think your thoughts get to develop a little bit more around what actually happened.
Let's talk about how the employees who survived are doing.
I think it's at all different levels. We have people that work at the bar full-time. We have others that it's a part-time job, or they’re performers. Financially, everybody is affected differently. Some can't go back to their full-time jobs with the trauma. We also have families of deceased employees, and we have the customers, the victims. I think that's all just as important. But the staff has been sticking together and having family dinners. There's been a lot of great groups that have put on events for them.
Our goal is to keep everybody employed at the level that they were before or more. We have started a GoFundMe that is directly for the staff, performers, contractors, and the rebuilding of what we're doing, although we don't know what that's going to be.
Club Q will go on. It has to go on when you hear the stories, and you understand what it means to this community. What the business operates as, we don't know. We don't know what the community is going to want from that space. We have people coming in to do a community needs assessment. There's talk of a community center. What do people want to see from Club Q? A dance floor, a lounge, a bar, a park out front? Again, there's no commitment to anything. We have to navigate this with past employees and the victims and survivors and families and the current employees.
It is unclear to me, Nic, where you were the night of the shooting. So I want to open this space for you to comment on that night, and share what you want … or not.
I think [founder] Matthew [Haynes] was there six minutes after the phone call, and I was there maybe eight. And so I was not at the scene as it started. We were arriving with the first responders.
Is there anything you want to reflect on about what you saw or experienced?
No. If you were there, you know what you're dealing with. That would be a trigger I think for too many people.
The scene was locked down for some time as investigators did their work. I imagine you have been back to the building since the police reopened the scene. Again, I'll invite you to comment on what that experience was like.
Once the police gave the building back over to the club, the memorial had formed out on Academy [Boulevard]. We didn't know what we were going to do with the memorial. Several of us just grabbed a cross that was out for each person, nice pictures and little bios of each person, and we put the crosses there and it was completely silent. People sat [outside] and people cried and people have been visiting 24 hours a day. We preserved a lot of the nice artwork and letters. Some things have been brought inside to let the families and victims see the love that has poured out in the handwritten letters, and posters from children and adults, and Christians, and people of every walk of life. It's so beautiful.
Do you believe this is a hate crime?
Unfortunately I do. I don't think there's a way it’s not, given the amount of talk about drag queen storytime, and this false narrative that is spread so widely on the internet. People come to believe those things. And then when you live with that hate in your heart. Because I don't believe someone could do this without hating so badly. And on the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance and going right into it. Those don't seem like coincidences.
But it proves more than ever why we need a safe place. Because we need a place to be ourselves and to celebrate those moments.
Elsewhere, you've praised Colorado Springs officials for their handling of the attack and its aftermath. How would you describe Club Q's relationship with the police before this?
We've had a wonderful relationship, and that is quite honest. I don't remember when, but an officer had a great idea of starting a neighborhood bar group, and we would meet at the police department once a month or once a quarter. It was different police that were in charge of that area — ones that would be assigned to each bar. And bar owners went on to a scanner system. And we just built a little bar community within our neighborhood so we could share what was happening– so that the police could understand what was going on in the bars. And it was really neat.
So on Fridays and Saturdays, officers assigned to our bar would come in and say "Hey, how are you doing? Have you seen anything weird?" And they had a personal relationship with us, like a liaison. And we've done Pride Fest with them for many years.
And it was interesting, six years ago [after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando], working with them and trying to help them understand our community was a bigger learning curve than when this tragedy happened. They started using pronouns and people's actual names. It was really respectful and neat to see. We didn't teach them that. They learned that themselves.
You've been so generous with your time, Nic. Before we go, is there something you think the coverage of this event is missing or getting wrong?
I think the coverage of this is telling a beautiful story. I'm learning so much. I've been in and out of that building off and on for 20 years, and I have my own stories. I know my people that I know from there, but to see these stories and poems and books that have been written well before this, about Club Q, and how it's affected them, I think that’s the story that needs to be told out of this. And it is. The story of the customers, the community they got there, the employees, the families of the deceased, that is the story that's being covered and it's beautiful.
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