A new queer nightclub in New York City caught fire Sunday in what authorities are investigating as arson.
The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. at Rash on Myrtle Avenue. Both police and fire departments confirmed that two people were injured in the fire.
“Last night before the party started, someone came into our bar, poured gasoline on the floor causing an explosion that set the bar in flames. He was wearing a dark hoodie and a backpack and immediately ran from the scene. Everyone inside made it out, but two people were brought to the hospital and are in stable condition,” the club wrote on Instagram following the fire.
“We still don’t know what to make of this cruel act of violence. In only five short months we were privileged to become home to such a talented and vital community of artists. It breaks our hearts that anyone would seek to threaten that for any reason.”
Rash added that it was working with police to investigate. The club also launched a GoFundMe to assist staff affected as well as for the damage caused by the fire.
“It was reported to police that an unknown individual entered the location with a bottle of flammable liquid, poured it on the floor, lit a match and threw it on the fluid causing a fire to ignite and fled,” the NYPD told The Advocate in a statement.
The spokesperson said that an investigation is ongoing and there have been no arrests. The New York Fired Department spokesperson said the official cause of the fire is still under investigation.
At the time of the fire, there were only about half a dozen people inside, witnesses told Gothamist.
Bartender Tyler Glenn, 25, was one of the people injured in the fire, receiving second-degree burns. They told the outlet that they first believed someone had been using the fog machine.
“Then I realized I couldn't breathe,” Glenn said. “The whole thing was in flames. I was banging on the walls and I couldn’t find the door and I could feel myself about to pass out.”
Glenn previously worked at the queer-friendly club Bossa Nova Civic, which shut down after a fire last month. Authorities do not believe that fire was arson.
"I was standing right here actually when it happened, I had just stepped out,” co-owner Claire Bendiner told local TV station WNBC. "Everyone rushed out. The side door has a glass front and I looked over and saw flames to the top of the ceiling. It was crazy, it happened so fast."
Bendiner said the alleged arsonist left behind a key bit of evidence: the gas canister.
Ashley Glenn, who was at the Rash (and not related to Tyler), said she saw the alleged suspect run away as the club was engulfed in flames.
“No one can figure out who it was,” the 38-year-old told Gothamist. “We didn't see him enter, which is really weird because there weren’t too many of us.”
The outlet notes that there have been concerns by some in the community over queer safe spaces in the area.