Mardi Gras guide snub ‘a slap in the face’
SYDNEY: Oxford Street’s iconic gay bars have expressed their frustration and disappointment at Sydney Mardi Gras for not being included in this year’s official visitor booklet, in favour of more mainstream venues that are “not gay-owned or operated”.
Of the many gay venues that dot the city’s traditional ‘gay ghetto’ – Oxford Street – only the Oxford Hotel has been listed in the booklet alongside the Newtown Hotel, Beresford Hotel, Opera Bar and Bank Hotel.
Midnight Shift licensee Michael D Bourke told SX he had tried since mid-last year to work with Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) on creating a ‘Mardi Bars’ precinct but to no avail.
SX understands Oxford Street and Taylor Square venues including the Midnight Shift, Arq, Stonewall Hotel and The Colombian Hotel are now in the early stages of planning a number of events to help create their own “street party” atmosphere for the duration of Mardi Gras.
“I personally believe that it is a slap in the face to have only one Oxford street venue included in this year’s 2013 guide,” Bourke said.
“Venues that are not gay-owned or operated were included which I believe sends the wrong message to international and local visitors.”
Stonewall Hotel licensee Glenn Hansen told SX he was disappointed about the non-inclusion and said he still had “no idea” why he and the other neighbouring bars were brushed over.
“Stonewall has always been a great supporter of Mardi Gras and also helping them raise money on Big Gay Friday,” he said.
“We always look forward to the Mardi Gras period and working with them. I guess that’s why we are so disappointed not to be included in the guide.”
On average, 300,000 people each year attend the Sydney Mardi Gras parade that snakes along Oxford Street, with the month-long festival of events helping draw up to 25,000 visitors to Sydney from interstate or overseas. Figures from Destination NSW indicate Sydney Mardi Gras provides an economic contribution of over $30 million to the local economy.
A spokesperson for SGLMG told SX the booklet was never intended to be an “exhaustive listing of all venues” but instead “a teaser of cool places” to hang out.
“Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ intention was not to isolate individual venues by excluding them from the guide. We feel all of Oxford Street, including the Midnight Shift, will benefit by the influx of visitors during the Sydney Mardi Gras three-week festival.”
Bourke confirmed to SX his views about the snub were shared by the board of the Midnight Shift as well as management, and said the issue was much larger than simply one local business complaining about being left out.
“In 1978 a small group of people took to Oxford Street to celebrate their lives and loves, not King Street, Newtown. It’s because of these brave men and women that Oxford Street venues are able to exist,” he said.
“Mardi Gras is still a celebration of all that it is to be GLBTIQ, and Oxford Street should still be the focus of those celebrations.”
Despite the seeming snub, Bourke and Hansen said they remained hopeful of developing a more productive working relationship with SGLMG next year.
“Mardi Gras need to recognise that with a dedicated group of people in Oxford Street venues who work to produce events for the GLBTIQ community each week of the year, a close working relationship with these venues would only enhance Mardi Gras in the future,” Bourke said.