Townsville's gay gem: The Sovereign Hotel
Steve and Peter from Townsville’s legendary Sovereign Hotel tell us about the history of this gay venue and what you can expect to find there when you head up north.
We bought the Sovereign Hotel in 1998 because we were sick of the changing and sometimes not at all venues that had been going on since time began. With the purchase of the Sov at least there would always be a gay venue and a place the gays would not get kicked out of.
It came with a price, however, and the reasonable purchase price led to us having to spend around a million and a half dollars to be able to operate a nightclub with rooms and all the different areas. The fire dept caused hundreds of thousands in upgrades – just to mention one aspect of the 16-year journey of renovations. We have renovated with the heritage in mind, with original polished floors, wallpaper and the finer things of yesteryear.
The finished renovated building features beautiful dressing rooms with an elevated stage which hosts production shows and electric curtain and state-of-the art lighting.
Drag Kings and Drag Queens perform shows every four to six weeks and the performers we have right now are the best group Townsville has ever had. The biggest night was a Queens Ball, where we packed in over 500 people.
To describe the Sovereign Hotel to someone that has never been before is to compare all of what the capital cities have and try and bundle it into one venue.
In a town of a little less than 200,000 population there are not enough people to have a girls only bar or boys leather bar so we have to try and cater for everyone at once. We are only closed Monday and Tuesday, the rest of the week is a mix of styles. Wednesday and Thursday are pub nights with jukebox music and counter meals where children are welcome in our restaurant and counter meals served at the bar (many of the lesbian couples have children). We show a movie on Wednesday night and have meal deals on Thursday nights.
Friday night is a night to choose your own track from the video jukebox and play pool, dance or meet friends for drinks and it’s not the full-on nightclub but half way there. Saturday night is a nightclub all the way with we think the best lighting and sound in town and the back area beer garden, smoking area and chill out bar. There is a straight swingers group that has a once a month drinks night in the back area because they like mixing with the gays as opposed to the yobbos that frequent other venues.
The back bar, or Red Bar as it’s known, is perfect for private groups and functions and gets used for anything from hens nights and birthday parties to gay group meetings and fundraisers. It’s offered at no charge to any group that wants to use it for their function. It has also hosted fetish and leather functions.
Sunday is another pub night where we have a different roast every week. The customers on Sunday night are staff and the older age group. The staff that have worked during the week get their meal for free if they bring a paying guest.
We have six rooms for overnight or weekly stays which can be booked by phone or email and we are almost right in the middle of the CBD.
Townsville is a bit of a redneck town, but the Sovereign has very little trouble as compared to the anti-social behaviour at some of the other clubs. We have a great relationship with the police and they always look out for the welfare of our customers if there is the rare occasion of trouble.
The town is a great place to relax and a great place to get away, with sandy beaches and Magnetic Island. Only a 20 minute ferry ride and you feel that you’re a million miles away. There are some award winning restaurants around town, so life in the redneck town isn’t all that bad.
Sovereign Hotel, 807 Flinders St, Townsville. sovereignhotel.com.au