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Buffalo's oldest gay bar facing permanent closure after being turned down for a Back to Business grant

The Underground's owner has questions about how Erie County's $20M program was run and if LGBTQ+ run businesses were included in priority groups for the grant.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — “It felt like maybe a lottery.” 

Nicholas Tiede, owner of The Underground nightclub, thought he had a good chance to land a grant in Erie County’s recently concluded ‘Back to Business’ program.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced in October that $20 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding would be used to help small businesses in Erie County.

Because Poloncarz stressed that minority-owned businesses would be given priority in the grant program, Tiede felt good about his chances as the owner of Buffalo’s oldest gay bar.

Credit: WGRZ
Nicholas Tiede looks over his empty nightclub, shutdown by state COVID restrictions and wonders how much longer his business can hang on.

But as he was filling out the application, Tiede noticed, “there wasn’t anything for people who were LGBT community.”

And this month, Tiede got the bad news, he was turned down for a grant.

2 On Your Side did reach out to the County Executive’s office and 43North which administered the program. We wanted to know if minority ownership included members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

So far, there has been no response, although 2 On Your Side has been told a report detailing how the Back to Business program was run is due out between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

For Tiede, keeping The Underground afloat has meant digging into his own pocket to the tune of $5,000 a month. It’s something he cannot do for much longer. 

He anticipates he’ll have to make a decision in the next two months on whether he’ll shut down the nightclub for good.

Tiede has set up a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 to keep his business alive. A link to the page can be found here.


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