The problem of gay bars is not the punters
Unless gay bars evolve, their demise will be their own making, writes William Lazootin.
Recently there was a thought-provoking article written by Penny Clifford voicing her concerns on the demise of our gay venues – that if we, as a community, do not support gay bars they will close. It asks us to question how important these venues are to us.
Indeed, are these venues still relevant to the gay community and are they even what we want or need anymore?
The gay community as whole has matured and developed more sophisticated tastes. Our need for venues, in line with our tastes, suggests many have moved on to other non gay-specific venues.
I have seen the community diversify over the past 11 years in Sydney. I know myself my tastes have changed as have my expectations in venues, dating and men.
Moreover, with our voice, it has become much easier to make your way around Sydney and to be treated equally by the general population. Being gay and being open about it is not such an issue anymore and this has allowed us to frequent other venues and to mix freely.
Mardi Gras for me is the indicator that the community has diversified into wanting different things and smaller events that are more relevant to them. It has grown in size over the years, failing to pull numbers. One could argue it has lost its attraction perhaps by trying to cater for all tastes and not having a clear focus on their demographic.
The community has clearly started to find their own niche within the larger community and the venues have not kept up with the community and its tastes and progression.
Some say that dating apps that have contributed to the demise of local gay bar. Most of our gay venues don’t allow for much in the way of social interaction other than a grope and a drunken feel. You could say Grindr , Tinder, Scruff et al have made the difference as it allows people to connect without booze and to be able to chat and get to know somebody first.
I feel the gay venues have sat on their laurels and have not evolved or changed, instead relying on the fact that people will be loyal and have nowhere else to go. But in actual fact, we have a whole city of really cool bars and places where we can meet and chat and connect.
The traditional gay venue today caters for you if you want to get smashed and have booze spilt all over your blue suede loafers and feet stepped on then pushed aside. And oh, those filthy toilets – let’s not even go there. Then there is the music that is pumping so loud you have no idea what the guy next to you is saying. How are you supposed to know he is even remotely interested when you cannot hear a bloody thing? Oh and do I dare mention that most gay venues are so outdated visually and simply trashy?
I simply choose not to go with friends to venues like this anymore as the point is to catch up and chat over a drink, there is no way that would happen on Oxford Street. The gay bars are all way too noisy and so limits real conversation and connection between people.
When Fag Tag is on, I am always surprised at the different demographics of the gay males that frequent this event. This was always a winner with the crowds as it took us – the gay punters – into much nicer venues than we have ever been offered in the gay scene and offered us something different and fresh.
It has been a tough few years and Oxford Street has taken a beating. But, like any business in 2014, it is time to reinvent yourself or close.