Shortly after 9 p.m. on Sunday, Tyler Glenn emerged from the basement of Rash, a new Bushwick nightclub, to find the small venue filling up with smoke. At first, the 25-year-old bartender assumed someone had cranked up the fog machine.

“Then I realized I couldn't breathe,” Glenn, who suffered second degree burns, told Gothamist. “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.”

The fire, which police are investigating as an act of arson, has sent shockwaves through a queer nightlife community that has suffered a string of tragedies in recent months.

Witnesses said that an individual wearing dark clothes entered the Myrtle Avenue club, then dumped a “flammable liquid” on the floor, lit a match and fled, according to an NYPD spokesperson.

Just half a dozen people were inside at the time of the incident, witnesses said. Glenn suffered second degree burns on the face and lips and remained hospitalized on Tuesday. Another person who was set to DJ later that evening was also hospitalized with minor injuries.

A patron at the club, Ashley Glenn – no relation to Tyler – said she saw the alleged suspect flee the bar as it became overwhelmed by flames.

“No one can figure out who it was,” the 38-year-old said. “We didn't see him enter, which is really weird because there weren’t too many of us.”

The suspect’s motivation remains unknown. But for Tyler Glenn, a Bed-Stuy resident who uses they/them pronouns, the fire struck a familiar nerve. Glenn previously worked at Bossa Nova Civic Club, another queer-friendly club that shut down after a devastating fire earlier this year.

A photo provided by Tyler Glenn as they recovered at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital hospital after the blaze.

A photo provided by Tyler Glenn as they recovered at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital hospital after the blaze.

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A photo provided by Tyler Glenn as they recovered at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital hospital after the blaze.
Tyler Glenn

“This seems more targeted,” Glenn said. “Almost like a Bossa copycat.”

The fire that shut down Bossa Nova Civic Club was not deemed suspicious, according to the NYPD. But it followed an incident in which a person was stabbed at the venue.

Another queer-owned nightlife spot in Bed-Stuy, C’Mon Everybody, found a brick thrown through its window in August.

A month later, protesters marched through the area after two men were attacked and pelted with anti-gay slurs at a Bushwick deli.

Janus Rose, an electronic music producer who performs in the area, said the latest act felt like “a targeted attack on queer spaces.”

“That whole area has become well known for queer bars and clubs,” Rose said. “This isn’t the first time it has happened, and it’s terrifying to realize that this kind of violence is becoming a pattern in our community.”

In a GoFundMe posted on Monday, owners of Rash said they were collecting funds to help repair the venue and pay out-of-work staff.

“We still don’t know what to make of this cruel act of violence,” the owners wrote. “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.”