Headroom LGBTQ+ Lounge, a popular bar that regularly featured drag performances and was known as a safe and welcoming space for the LGBTQ+ community, abruptly closed on May 26.
Just before Memorial Day Weekend, the lounge’s doors were locked and brown paper covered the windows. Anida Tension, a drag performer and the entertainment coordinator at Headroom, said people called her, wondering why construction work could be heard from inside the bar.
The closure was supposedly caused by a disagreement between owners Joseph Cameron and Howard Brunner.
According to Tension, who booked talent, hosted drag nights and performed for Headroom, an entertainment fund had been set up to pay performers.
All of the money in the fund went to pay performers, pay Tension for her role as coordinator, and cover promotional and equipment costs, said Tension. Both Cameron and Tension said Brunner wanted to dip into that money for personal gain.
Brunner, however, put out a statement saying, “irreconcilable differences as to how to grow the business post-COVID made it impossible to continue our business relationship. We made this decision after much deliberation. Contrary to Mr. Cameron’s depiction, it had nothing to do with the performers’ rightful income.”
Brunner is a managing member of the hardware support company Ardent Supporter, LLC.
According to Cameron, Brunner contractually had the ability to pull the plug on the club at any time. But, he needed to give Cameron 21 days notice, which Cameron said Brunner did not do.
Headroom opened in November 2020. In the few months it was open, it became a well-loved space, especially by the LGBTQ+ community. It was one of the only places in North Jersey to see a drag or burlesque show.
“We gave a lot of entertainers work,” said Tension. “In New York, you often only see drag queens. We booked LGBT burlesque dancers, singers and other performers. Now that’s gone. There’s no space in Jersey City like it.”
Headroom attracted plenty of high-profile drag performers. Olivia Lux, a contestant on Season 13 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” hosted viewing parties of the show there. Queens Shuga Cain, Nicky Doll and Jiggly Caliente were booked to perform on Memorial Day weekend. But, Cameron said there was always room for new performers, hoping to grow and gain experience.
“It’s hard for a new performer,” he said. “They have to grind for a year or two before they typically do a show on their own. We always featured up-and-coming artists. Our community helped them develop that sense of confidence.”
Tension had to call all the performers booked through June, which is Pride Month, and tell them their shows were canceled. Bartenders and staff also lost their jobs when Headroom closed. A GoFundMe has been started to support the staff of Headroom. Tension will also be donating the proceeds of her merchandise sales to Hudson Pride Center throughout June.
“There are plenty of places that are LGBT friendly, but the owners are straight. At Headroom it was gay-owned and run,” said Tension. “This was a home we had built where people could hang out, feel accepted and watch amazing entertainment.”
Cameron is currently working to find a new space in Jersey City to relaunch Headroom.
“We are looking for a new home,” Cameron said. “Talks have advanced, and I’m so glad that I made so many friends here. They’ve reached out and returned the love to me. I feel like I’ve moved an entire mountain in a week.”
Rebecca King is a food writer for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.