Despite the reduction in client capacity, having to embark on several changes in the way he delivered services, and the departure of a colleague who returned to Europe, things are much better than last year when he had to shut down for four months.
“I learned to jump through hoops to fight for meager but lifeline PPP loans and become adaptable to change. I’d like to add that if it were not for the support of my incredible clients and the loyalty of my staff, I could have never made it.”
Happily, he is currently looking to expand his employee base and soon take on a new stylist.
Jeffrey Sotland, owner of Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar on 12th Street, is looking forward to the warmer months and the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, he remains realistic that while we might be far better off than last year at this time, it may be a while until we see “more of the light at the end of that dark tunnel.”
But things are not at all grim: Tabu is looking to hire more staff to accommodate customers.
“It’s great to see old friends, but it’s also refreshing to meet people who stop in and frequent Tabu who never were here before the pandemic.” A reduced menu is also du jour, which allows Sotland’s kitchen to focus on guest favorites. “Everyone appears to be very focused on about 10 items and every time we try to mix it up, people are just not very interested. Frozen drinks will be making a big return as well.”
Sotland credits local residents who frequented his and other storefronts as saving local enterprises.
Unfortunately, many Gayborhood businesses did not survive the pandemic challenges. Toasted Walnut, the last remaining lesbian bar in the city, had to shutter in February. Valanni, a restaurant loved by many Center City residents and Gayborhood boulevardiers, closed after nearly two decades. A statement via a GoFundMe page in March of 2020 explained the tapas bar had no choice but to close.
“If you look around and see the restaurants that did not survive,” Sotland said, “many are the result of landlords who refused to work with the tenant or needed an excuse to remove the tenant. The support from the community, including the sports leagues, performance community, and others was great. We look forward to continuing our support for the entire community as we move forward.”
Sebastian Fortino is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.