Club Q owner criticized over plans for GoFundMe money

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People gather at a makeshift memorial set up on the side of North Academy Boulevard for Club Q attack victims, a few days after the Nov. 19 tragedy. (File photo by Bryan Oller)

Club Q management is taking heat for the way it plans to distribute donated funds to former employees and performers, nearly three months after the attack at the Colorado Springs LGBTQ club where five people were killed. 

None of the more than $55,000 raised through an online GoFundMe fundraiser started by Club Q owner Matthew Haynes in November has been distributed to staff yet, according to Bread and Roses Legal Center, a social justice-centered law firm that is representing Club Q employees and victims. 

“People have donated [to the Club Q GoFundMe] specifically because they believe that those funds are going to the staff and contractors of Club Q,” said Hysteria Brooks, who was a drag performer and producer at Club Q. “Unfortunately, that is not the case. We as Club Q staff and employees have yet to receive a penny, a dime, from Matthew Haynes.”

Brooks spoke during a press conference hosted by Bread and Roses on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol on Feb. 14. Since the club closed, some staff and regular performers have struggled financially due to losing that work, and the emotional trauma they experienced after the attack

Those people won’t be getting an “adequate” portion of the money raised even when it is distributed, Brooks said. 

“The people that have donated to this official GoFundMe did it out of the kindness of their heart because they believed that what they were donating to was going to go directly to the people that were affected — and that is not the case,” she said. “Matthew plans on using the majority of those funds to reopen his business — and I’m very sorry, but people should come before businesses. Matthew really needs to understand that.”

Brooks also said the staff are now understood to be “former” employees and contractors — she said they learned this through the club’s Facebook post on Feb. 13 outlining Club Q’s reopening plan.

The GoFundMe description states the fund “will be used to ensure the Club Q staff and entertainers don’t suffer financial hardship due to this horrific act” and will “go towards the total remodel of Club Q, the construction of an appropriate memorial for our victims and a small museum onsite.”

The Feb. 13 Facebook post by Club Q included a plan for how management intends to distribute the GoFundMe dollars and renovate the club (with plans to reopen by fall 2023) including increased security and a standing memorial to victims of the Nov. 19 attack. The post says Club Q is working with architecture firm HB&A to design the remodel and memorial.

At the news conference, Brooks said it’s “not right to build a memorial without the meaningful connections and input from the families who lost loved ones. Matthew has decided that he is going to solely be the creator of this memorial and he has not talked to any of the families of the deceased to get their input.”

Club Q’s Feb. 13 post also says Club Q will pay former staff and “third-party entertainer contractors” a lump sum of what they netted, on average, each month while working at Club Q. Individuals will be paid up to three months’ worth of those wages, starting on Feb. 17, according to the Feb. 13 post.

But a majority of the money, former staff say, will be used for the club renovations. Bread and Roses said on Twitter that the staff would get a total of $14,000 — that’s about one-quarter of the $55,399 currently on GoFundMe. 

“They’re just not adequate enough for the amount of trauma and suffering that the employees, staff, victims and survivors have all been through,” Brooks said at the press conference. “These people have new medical bills, these people are seeing therapists, these people are seeing physical therapists. There’s a lot of new bills that have come up. 

“To try and withhold funds because you feel like the victims, that staff have received generous donations through other organizations — that you feel it’s comfortable for you to take a step back and not help your staff — is unacceptable,” Brooks said.

On the steps of the Capitol, Ashtin Gamblin told the crowd, “I’m tired of us being told no — because I’m not the only victim that’s been told no.”

“I was the front door girl at Club Q,” she said. “I was shot nine times. I have been through immeasurable hell in the past three months.

“I just learned that I am also a ‘former employee’ — via Facebook,” she added. “… For the last three months I haven’t been working. I can’t even work my full-time job because I have one fully working hand and I have toddler hand strength. My left hand does not work right now.

“Matthew does need to release our money,” she said. “As for the Colorado Healing Fund, they also need to release our money, because we know what’s best. We know our long-term needs, and we can’t continue to submit receipts and monthly expenses and be treated like children.”

Bread and Roses, on behalf of the staff and family members of attack victims, has also criticized how the Colorado Healing Fund has distributed funds, as previously reported by Colorado Public Radio.

“These people are dictating what they’re going to do with the funds that they raised for us,” said Adriana Vance, the mother of Raymond Green Vance, who was killed in the attack. “This is a call for action for everybody that’s listening, who’s in a position of power to be able to help us.”

A separate statement Bread and Roses posted to Twitter called on Haynes to instead give staff 75 percent of the funds, and allow staff to decide for themselves how it’s distributed, based on their individual financial needs.

We contacted Club Q management on Feb. 14 and will let you know when they comment.

This is Colorado Healing Fund’s response to previous allegations that they were withholding funds from victims and their families:

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

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