The Q, a troubled Hell’s Kitchen LGBTQ nightclub, appears to have shuttered late on March 27, according to a report, former employees, and a Go Fund Me campaign page created by The Q’s talent director, Xavier Pineda, to support the queer artists and workers who are now out of work. The campaign hopes to raise $50,000 for the more than 100 people — predominantly queer people of color — who worked there, according to the page. It raised $150 within its first four hours.
Werrrk.com reported on March 27 that The Q closed its doors Monday due to a string of issues starting with the nightclub’s publicity nightmare stemming from an inflammatory lawsuit. The nightclub was also linked to a string of druggings and robberies, two of which resulted in the murder of gay men, one of whom was last seen alive outside the nightclub, and the disappearance of one man.
Hector Fonseca, a former employee of The Q, reacted to the nightclub’s sudden shuttering in a Facebook post on March 27.
“Sadly The Q NYC has closed,” he wrote. “I finished my last date with them a few months ago & signed at another space but I did want to send love to the weekly employees that have suddenly lost their jobs.”
“Truth is, after the split, it was never the same,” he added. “BUT I’m going to always be thankful & remember it for amazing nights like in this video…”
An anonymous source speaking exclusively to Werrrk.com claimed the nightclub “hired the wrong talent.” It experienced a backlash from Hell’s Kitchen DJs who weren’t tapped to spin at the four-story nightclub, and its roster of DJ’s and promoters also weren’t bringing in the spendthrift crowds, causing the club to lose money and resulting in staffing cuts. The source told Werrrk.com that being paid on time was a “constant” issue at The Q.
However, there were no posts on The Q’s website, Google Business card, or social media about the club being temporarily or permanently closed. Instead, The Q’s Instagram profile advertised its weekly Latinx night, #QULO, that was slated for March 29.
The nightclub’s owner, Bob Fluet, and former co-owner Frankie Sharp and his lawyer, Joseph Anthony Dempsey, did not respond to questions from Gay City News.
Alan Picus, an alleged former co-owner and executive producer at The Q, was fired by Fluet in July 2022 as a result of Sharp’s lawsuit. Picus’ attorney, Thomas D. Shanahan, expressed disappointment and sadness about the news of The Q’s closure on behalf of his client in an email to Gay City News March 28.
“The bar was limping along since the complaint was filed,” Shanahan wrote, stating his client’s career has been “substantially damaged.” He maintained Picus’ innocence. “[The] Q was never able to recover from the damage caused by the scandalous complaint.”
“It’s a very sad situation,” he continued. “The community has lost a bright light and place that made many very happy.”
Sharp told Werrrk.com that “Due to ongoing litigation, I am not at liberty to speak freely on the subject of The Q’s sudden closure.”
“If news of The Q’s closure is true, my heart goes out to all of the folks there who have unexpectedly lost their jobs today,” Sharp said.
The Q had a big splashy pride weekend opening on June 24, 2021. The nightclub’s emergence was a sign of hope in New York’s nightlife that was gasping for life from COVID-19 and excited queer clubgoers itching to hit the dance floors. The nightclub was the vision of Fluet, who tapped Picus and Sharp as alleged business partners. The three gay men touted opening a multilevel nightclub that would welcome everyone. The Q was backed by big gay celebrity names, such as Billy Porter and Zachary Quinto.
Porter and Quinto did not respond to Gay City News’ requests for comments.
Trouble in the night
The Q has been plagued with trouble since May 16, 2022, when Sharp, who was allegedly The Q’s co-owner and creative director, sued Bar Fluid, LLC, the parent company of The Q; Fluet, who owns Bar Fluid, LLC; and Picus, who was allegedly The Q’s co-owner and executive producer. Sharp claimed in the lawsuit filed with the State Supreme Court that Fluet and Picus allowed illegal behavior inside the nightclub, such as allowing underage patrons and drugs inside. He also alleged that Picus engaged in preferential hiring of staff by nixing people on the basis of race, gender identity, and weight. He allegedly applied the same preferential criteria at the door, ordering bouncers to only allow certain people inside the nightclub. Sharp and some former employees also accused Picus in the lawsuit and in the press of having public sex with customers in front of employees, taking advantage of young gay men, and making sexual comments to staff and patrons.
Shanahan, who is gay, denied Sharp’s and other former The Q employees’ allegations against his client when he spoke with Gay City News last year. Last year, Shanahan was honored with a Gay City News 2022 Impact Award.
Bar Fluid LLC is also the parent company of Hell’s Kitchen gay nightclubs, Boxer and Hush, also co-owned by Fluet.
By July, Fluet fired Picus, who is the event producer of Boi Promotions, LLC, due to the lawsuit. Luis Fernando was hired as executive producer of The Q to replace Picus in July 2022.
Sharp appears to be moving on from The Q as the lawsuit is litigated in the courts. On Instagram, he announced the forthcoming Frankie’s Pub, scheduled to open this summer.
The lawsuit was only the beginning of The Q’s troubles. The LGBTQ nightclub appears to have become one of the multiple hunting grounds for a gang ring that drugged and robbed victims’ bank accounts using facial recognition on their iPhones. Five of the victims died. Two of the victims were openly gay Republican, John Umberger, 33, a political consultant in Washington, DC who was in New York City on business, and gay social worker Julio Ramirez, 25. Umberger was found dead at his boss’s Upper East Side apartment June 1, 2022. Ramirez, who was at the Ritz Bar and Lounge near The Q, was later found dead in a taxi in the Lower East Side April 21, 2022.
On March 3, the Office of the New York City Medical Examiner declared their deaths homicides with “drug-facilitated thefts.” The medical examiner found “acute intoxication” with the combined effects of nearly the same lethal cocktail of “fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, cocaine, lidocaine, and ethanol” in the bodies of Ramirez and Umberger. Heroin was also found in Ramirez’s system.
The New York Post reported a grand jury indicted six members associated with Kenwood Allen, who was arrested and charged in December 2022, March 23. The men were charged with grand larceny and first-degree robbery as well as conspiracy to drug and rob at least a dozen victims.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg issued arrest warrants for three men charged with first degree murder of Umberger and Ramirez March 24. No arrests have been made as of press time.
In January, Jordan Taylor, a 29-year-old NYC law student, went missing outside of The Q. He hasn’t been found.
Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary, had mixed feelings about The Q’s closure, she wrote in an email to Gay City News March 28.
“John seemed to enjoy his moments in The Q,” she wrote. “However, either the management or the owners seem to have ignored some seriously bad stuff going on in and around the club.”
She expressed sorrow for the nightclub’s employees’ who will feel the effects of the club’s closure.
“I am sorry for employees who are left with nothing on such short notice and hope they find employment soon that is better for them,” she said.
Clary has been fighting for justice for her son and other gay and straight victims of the gang rings’ druggings and robberies.