Embattled Hell’s Kitchen nightclub The Q NYC has closed — months after a lawsuit was filed against its owners alleging discrimination and illegal practices, and one of its clubgoers was murdered.
The 8th Avenue bar was the last place murder victim John Umberger was seen alive before he was discovered dead on June 1, 2022. Umberger was later determined to have been purposefully drugged with a combination of fentanyl, p-fluoro fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, lidocaine and ethanol and robbed. The investigation, still ongoing, has recently picked up speed after three suspects were indicted for first-degree murder in connection with the crime.
W42ST stopped by on Wednesday evening when The Q was scheduled to open and found the doors closed and display screens removed from the front windows. Bar manager Xavier Pineda confirmed the club had closed on a GoFundMe page he created to support fellow staff members in the wake of the venue’s shutdown. “With much sadness and a heavy heart, the news goes out that The Q! is closing,” said Xavier. “Some may say, finally, but for myself and many of my staff it’s a sad time…my heart goes out to those who we employed and I tried my best to support. There are 100+ queer predominantly POC artists left without work.”
Other sources told W42ST that an email from the 8th Avenue venue confirming its closing had made its way to some Q employees, though there was no official announcement from leadership to the staff or a statement posted on the bar’s social media. We reached out to Bob Fluet, co-owner of The Q for comment on the closure and will update if we hear back.
The multi-level bar opened in June 2021 to much fanfare, promising “burlesque, performance art, Broadway stars popping through and A-list-headlined comedy nights” as well as a rotating roster of performances from the area’s best drag artists. The club quickly became a local favorite, winning a W42ST’s reader runner-up award for Best Newcomer in 2021.
But by July of 2022, things started to unravel when one of the venue’s founders Frankie Sharp filed a lawsuit against fellow business partners Alan Picus and Bob Fluet, alleging that he had been wrongfully terminated after raising concerns over racial discrimination by Picus towards patrons and employees, underage drinking, and an environment where Picus encouraged the use of illegal drug GHB (known colloquially as a “date rape” and “euphoric party drug”) in the space.
In response to Sharp’s lawsuit, co-owner Bob Fluet announced in July 2022 that Picus would no longer serve as Executive Producer of the venue and that “while we vehemently deny the hurtful allegations that have recently surfaced, we are committed to end the very division within our community that Q’s programming and mission were designed to combat.” Fluet went on to confirm that he had hired a replacement for Picus and remained “committed to fostering an open dialogue on how the Q can better serve our community and I will continue to invest in educating my staff — and myself — on the unique issues our community collectively faces.”
W42ST reached out to former Q manager Frankie Sharp for comment on news of the club’s closure, to which he stated: “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 did confirm that he will be opening a brand-new venue called Frankie’s Pub, and that location and opening day details would be made public soon.
For now, artists and hospitality staff employed by the Q have suddenly found themselves out of work — a blow that manager Xavier hoped to soften by raising funds for those affected by the sudden closure. “I am building this GoFundMe in hopes to give the independent contractors of the building a chance to not feel the financial burden as they seek work during this time of confusion,” wrote Pineda. “It saddens me to say this but to all my staff I will always be here when you need advice, an ear to vent to, or a warm embrace. Each of you has taught me a lot and brought me much joy.”