COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — When Club Q closed after the November 2022 mass shooting where five people were killed, only one gay bar was left open in the entire City of Colorado Springs.
ICONS, located in Downtown Colorado Springs, is a designated LGBTQ+ space with singing bartenders and their owners said they would love more gay bars to join them as neighbors.
"We need a gayborhood," laughed John Wolfe, who owns ICONS with his husband Josh Franklin-Wolfe.
The two credit their success in the city to the foundation laid by Club Q.
“If it weren't for that bold decision to be a voice in a town that wanted to silence your voice, there's no way that we could have been successful," Franklin-Wolfe said. “They were always lovely, friendly neighbors and supportive. We owe a lot to them for sure.”
The two have different opinions when it comes to the one-year mark of the mass shooting at Club Q.
“For me, it, in a lot of ways, feels much longer because this event defined our city and our community in so many ways. So, it's odd to think that that was only a year ago," Franklin-Wolfe said. “It feels like it's been with me forever. And maybe that's because it taps into some trauma that I've been through growing up in this town with the queer community and the way that we've been treated.”
“For me, it feels less than a year. I don't know, it feels fresher than that," Wolfe said. “It's just so emotional, but time is funny that way.”
The owners of ICONS felt an extreme amount of weight and pressure to make the right choice for the LGBTQ+ community following the mass shooting at Club Q.
“When you're faced with the decision to do something or do nothing, I wanted to do everything. You know, that's just part of our responsibility," Franklin-Wolfe said. “We've done very specific things in the space to make people safer. We've put new glass in that is bullet resistant, we've added security measures, you know, we've done everything that we could think of to make sure people can come in here and have a great experience and leave that trauma outside the door.”
For some of their customers, dealing with the trauma that followed the mass shooting at Club Q meant not going out for a year. For others, it meant finding that space where they were welcomed and wanted.
“A smile is contagious, so we try to lead with that here. And hopefully that goes out into the community a little bit more. And I think that's all we can do," said Franklin-Wolfe. “Running away from hate is not the option in this case. You know, it just wasn't an option. We have to keep showing up.”
Both of the owners of ICONS said the national perception of Colorado Springs following the shooting was not accurate.
"We have worked really hard to change the narrative. I do think the event last year set us back in many ways because it's easy to be like, 'Oh, Colorado Springs. Yeah, that's that really conservative town that hates gay people, of course that happened,'” said Franklin-Wolfe, who grew up in the city. "I don't think that that's an accurate description of our city in 2023.”
“I think the way that that showed, right after the event, was the support from the community, where there was a pride flag in every window in all of downtown. It was heartwarming to see," Wolfe said.
While everyone works through trauma differently, the two believe music has powerful therapeutic qualities. They hope the songs in their bar help in some way to ease the pain in the city, even if only for a moment.
“Music speaks words that we are incapable of speaking on our own," Wolfe said. “It just touches a part of your soul that you didn't even know needed to be healed.”
Franklin-Wolfe added “to come and enjoy a drink and an incredible vocalist, that just makes life a little bit more bearable.”
The management behind Club Q does not plan on reopening in the original location, but hopes to have a new location called "The Q" open in The Satellite Hotel by the end of the year. It would not be a nightclub like Club Q, but will be a space designated for the LGBTQ+ community.
Club Q Shooting