Transformations at The Wickham Hotel
While The Wickham Hotel undergoes renovations, there’s been speculation in the LGBTI community about what’s being done and even whether it will identify as a gay bar in the future. Now we can reveal what's happening at this Valley icon. We spoke with the hotel’s Patrick MacDonald to get the low down on the new Wickham.
Patrick, The Wickham was built in 1855, but how long has it been a gay pub?
The Wickham has operated for approximately 25-30 years as a venue for the LGBTI community.
How would you describe The Wickham?
It would be hard not to notice that there are changes happening at The Wickham. We know that The Wickham hasn’t been all that it could be in recent times and that a change is well and truly overdue. The place was not meeting our vision of being Brisbane’s flagship gay venue that satisfied the gay community’s appetite for quality and welcomed friends of the LGBTI community. This is why we’re not just renovating – we’re undergoing a complete transformation.
After the transformation, are there are going to be changes in the way the hotel brands itself?
The new Wickham Hotel will house a distinct series of ‘micro-venues’ – discrete, yet complementing spaces designed to give guests choice and flexibility. It will always be known as The Wickham, but there will be four sub-brands, each with their own unique personality, providing a colourful and vibrant mix of dining, drinking, décor, music and entertainment. There will be a timeless public corner bar with European influences where the previous dancefloor was, a vibrant outdoor laneway oasis in what was formerly the car park, an upstairs nightclub and a newly-refurbished gaming room.
You held a community forum about the future of The Wickham, what sort of feedback did you get from that?
We’ve conducted an extensive process of community consultation to ensure the direction of the hotel is firmly based on research and the desires of the LGBTI community. The LGBTI community has spoken loud and clear, and the new Wickham will reflect the gay community’s desire for a quality meeting place. I myself am a member of the LGBTI community, actively involved on the board of QuAC and a member of the Gay and Lesbian Business Network. I’ve previously volunteered for Queensland Positive People and have been a proud Wickham regular since coming out, so it’s important to me that we listen to the voice of the LGBTI community.
Will The Wickham still identify as an LGBTI hotel once it’s been refurbished?
I’ve caught wind of a few different theories about what the renovations really mean for the LGBTI community. Some are pretty accurate and some, I assure you, are not! The biggest rumour is that The Wickham is turning “straight”. This is certainly not true. The transformed Wickham Hotel will absolutely remain Queensland’s number one meeting place for the LGBTI community. While this renovation sees the beginning of a new and exciting era for The Wickham, its heart and soul remains the same. This has always been your pub and always will be! We can’t wait to welcome you back.
When the Wickham Hotel first became an exclusively gay venue it was a trailblazer, ahead of its time – a place where people could meet, mingle and celebrate inclusion among peers. We’ve come a long way since then as a society, and we’re proud that friends and family are now also encouraged to share in these celebrations. The improved Wickham Hotel will reflect a more contemporary approach, being more welcoming of people of all identities, while still always respecting the hotel’s history. The Wickham as a hotel has the opportunity to have “mixed” appeal – a place where gay people and their straight friends can feel comfortable.
Will you continue to stage drag shows?
The entertainment is still being finalised, but whether that involves drag queens, drag kings or something completely unexpected, one thing is for sure – our guests will only see acts that are of the best entertainment quality.
How does The Wickham stand out from other LGBTI venues in Brisbane?
The new Wickham’s point of difference will be a quality food and beverage experience. It will be anything other than “just another gay bar”. The new Wickham Hotel will be a hive of diverse culinary and social experiences – housing a series of unique spaces that will give our customers better variety, flexibility and choice. Think pub, beer garden, and nightclub and gaming all under the one roof, each space with its own unique personality and offering. As always, we won't be taking ourselves too seriously – but we are very serious about providing the best quality experience for our guests.
Will Big Gay Day continue to feature on The Wickham’s calendar?
Big Gay Day is absolutely a part of who we are and a very important event on our annual calendar. Continuing to support the LGTBI community is something we’re very passionate about, and while we’re a good 11 months away from 2015’s party, we know that with this renovation comes an exciting new era for Big Gay Day too.
How much does BGD raise for community organisations and which does it donate to?
Twenty-five per cent of ticket proceeds were donated to fantastic local LGTBI charities, including PFLAG, Open Doors, ATSAQ and QuAC.
Are you proud of the work The Wickham does for the community? How important is it?
The Wickham has always been a proud supporter of LGBTI causes, and will continue this community commitment throughout the transition and into the future.
The Wickham Hotel, 308 Wickham St, Valley. thewickham.com.au