Glamorous wigs always sit on foam heads. Sequined dresses hang from their shelves. The big red heels lie impatiently in a closet.

All the Oasis – San Francisco’s beloved drag club and cabaret – lacks – is the audience. All that happens is the bills.

D’Arcy Drollinger, owner of the South of Market nightclub and drag artist himself, said between rent and other costs, he was spending $ 1,000 a day just to keep the 8,000 square foot space. closed. He will organize an old-fashioned telethon on Saturday in which drag queens will accept donations over the phone as a last-ditch effort to save the club.

His desperation is reflected by owners of entertainment venues across San Francisco – the kind of places that make living in this expensive and frustrating city worth it. Almost a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, PianoFight in the Tenderloin can only hold out for another month without more help. Ditto for the Balboa Theater in Outer Richmond, where the cinema screen remains dark.

Readers, this is not an abstract crisis. It is up to us, the common people, to keep the Oasis and the other sites of San Francisco that we cherish afloat afloat until government help arrives. At the same time, it is up to politicians and bureaucrats to see the urgency and to act with more haste.

Former President Donald Trump, perhaps an unlikely potential savior of the Oasis, on December 27 signed a $ 2.3 trillion loan program containing $ 900 billion in stimulus money. The invoice included $ 15 billion in grants to closed sites. Theaters, museums, cinemas and other entertainment venues are eligible for grants worth 45% of their 2019 revenue or $ 10 million, whichever is less.

Well they possibly can.

Almost 10 weeks after the money was approved, Drollinger and others still cannot apply for the funds. There is no application process, and a spokeswoman for the Small Business Administration, which administers the fund, said there is no estimate of when it will be ready.

She added that the administration “is working quickly” to ensure that “all the mechanisms required by law” are in place. Let’s bet Drollinger has a different definition of the word expeditious.

After all, 10 weeks got him $ 70,000 more in debt. And he and other business owners cannot apply for the new paycheck protection program money if they intend to apply for the site grants. They have to choose between the two with very little information.

Meanwhile, a $ 1.5 million jar for closed sites pledged by San Francisco mayor London Breed last month has yet to be approved by the supervisory board. It will not be taken up by the budget committee for two weeks.

“It looks a bit like the Wild West where you don’t know what’s going on,” said Drollinger, who has tried to stay afloat with virtual events, his Meals on Heels dinner delivery program by drag-queens, a streaming service for drag shows and outdoor dance lessons.

“It’s smiling, putting on the wigs and dancing as fast as you can when you know everything is slowly falling apart and no help is coming,” he said.

The mayor made a video for the Drollinger Telethon, but he would surely prefer the money. Jeff Cretan, spokesperson for Breed, said: “The mayor has asked us to go as fast as possible. It’s never fast enough.

Last year, Breed committed $ 24 million in grants and loans to small businesses, but only $ 4.6 million was disbursed in grants and $ 10.4 million in loans. Breed recently committed $ 62 million in other grants and loans, but that still requires supervisory board approval later this month.

Rob Ready, Artistic Director of PianoFight, is active with the city’s Independent Venue Alliance and a separate collective called the San Francisco Venue Coalition. They aim to ensure the survival of the city’s vital artistic spaces.

He said the sites, on average, lost 90% of their revenue and laid off 94% of their staff. Still, they have to pay rent and utilities, and they expect to be among the last businesses allowed to reopen – at least at 100% capacity. The solution simply does not emerge without major government assistance.

“The fact that the only nightclub in the city dedicated to cruising had to last a year without the help of the city of San Francisco, it’s really sad,” said Ready. “This money has to move.

To learn more about Saturday’s fundraiser for the Oasis or to donate, visit

When asked to describe PianoFight’s financial situation, Ready responded with one word: “Bad”.

“In about a month, we will have to make some very difficult decisions if no money comes to us,” he said.

Adam Bergeron, owner of the 97-year-old Balboa Theater in Outer Richmond, said he got the first installment of PPP money and a federal loan last spring, enough to last until October 2020. At the time, that seemed to save a lot of time. Five months later, he says, he’s desperate.

He was put on a waiting list for a small business loan in the city two months ago and was told last week to reapply with more complete documents. In the meantime, he sells t-shirts, tote bags, beer and popcorn in front of the movies on weekends and earns about $ 1,000 a week.

“It’s a barely stagnant situation,” he said, noting that he is two months behind on rent, with all of his overdue bills. Also, he has to pay back that federal loan and will have to pay back the city loan if he gets it this time around.

“If there is no influx, we may be able to hold out for another month,” he said.

Sherri Young, founder and executive director of the African-American Shakespeare Company of San Francisco, said she had not heard of when she could apply for federal aid for closed premises.

“Not a glance! she said. “Being wary of how politics works, you always have a feeling that something is going to happen to undo the money that’s coming in. We’re all trying to navigate our way in the dark.”

Anastacia Powers Cuellar is Executive Director of Brava for Women in the Arts, which owns the Brava Theater on Potrero Hill. She said she believed Brava would survive the pandemic, despite losing $ 1.5 million in income during the pandemic and laying off 20 people.

“The first few months, I cried. I always do, ”she said. “It’s just very frustrating that the need doesn’t drive more immediate action. “

My advice to readers? Pick three to five small businesses or arts venues that you can’t stand to see the city lose. Find a way to support them as much as you can. Buy in person or online. Buy tickets for virtual events. Make a donation. Buy gift certificates. Tell your friends to do the same. Share your devotion on social media.

If not?

“This town is going to be a wasteland, and there will be nothing,” Drollinger said. “When San Francisco reopens, all the small venues, the entertainment venues, will be gone. “

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @hknightsf