So why is an online dating and networking company giving out money in Denver? It's part of Bumble's new Community Grant Program, which was launched to support small businesses all over the world during the coronavirus pandemic. Bumble, which calls itself a women-first social network, is awarding $5,000 grants to more than 180 businesses worldwide — and a Denver bar was selected as one of the first to receive money.
Fort Greene, owned by Eleanor Cheetham, fit Bumble's criteria of "small businesses that have demonstrated support from their community." Cheetham says she applied for the grant and spread the word to about twenty regular customers and friends. But Bumble received more than seventy nominations for Fort Greene, making the Globeville bar at 321 East 45th Avenue a shoo-in for the prize.
"It was one of the first grants that I've seen that allowed the community to have a voice in the decision," the bar owner explains. And while Cheetham has been applying for other loans and grants available from state and federal sources, she says the $5,000 has lifted some of the immediate stress of getting through the next month or two until Fort Greene, which closed on March 16, can reopen. "This has been the first financial — and emotional — support we've received," she adds.
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A Bumble representative explains that a big part of the reason that Fort Greene earned the grant was because it is a "touchstone to the community...and integral to the vitality of the neighborhood." Additionally, Cheetham earned respect from the company for being one of very few women who own bars in Denver, for supporting local distilleries and other businesses, and for renting out Fort Greene's kitchen at below-market rates to Denver chefs; most recently chef Edwin Sandoval had been setting up late-night pop-ups of his Xatrucho street food kitchen (and Cheetham hopes to invite him back once she's able to reopen the bar).
The neighborhood appeal of Fort Greene is apparent in the tiny slice of Globeville, bounded by I-70 and I-25 on the north and west, that the bar calls home. "I live two blocks from the bar, and I've been here for about seven years," Cheetham notes. She still walks to her business every day to water plants and check in on the property, and she says there are about a dozen neighbors who keep an eye on the place when she's not there.
While Cheetham is dedicated to staying closed until the state and city orders are lifted (rather than reopening for takeout or delivery) to keep her customers and staff of three bartenders safe, she says that the "weird waiting anxiety" had been growing, at least until she got the news of the grant from Bumble. "We are planning on using it to pay rent this month — and the utilities that go with it," she notes.
There's still uncertainty at Fort Greene; Cheetham says that even after the government gives the go-ahead to reopen, she plans to keep an eye out on the risks so that she doesn't expose people to danger too soon. "But we're not going to close," she adds. "We're fighting to reopen — and this definitely helps."