Gay bars going "bottoms up"

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    Apr 26, 2008 3:34 AM GMT
    Okay, so this is an NPR story so it didn't actually have that title. I just couldn't help myself--I'm a lover of bad puns.

    Gay bars adjusting to a new reality

    Fortune Magazine's recent list of 10 businesses facing extinction includes record stores, crop dusting, telemarketing and . . . gay bars? That one caught our eye because gay business in general is booming. Stacey Vanek-Smith checked it out.
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    Apr 26, 2008 5:38 AM GMT
    It's definitely affecting London's bars. Earl's Court only has one gay bar and even places in Soho are struggling.

    I think people tend to go out to bars on Saturday night or leave it to the big clubs. And the internet has changed everything.
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    Apr 26, 2008 7:25 AM GMT
    If this is for real, and there are no guarantees, this is a good thing. I was always more comfortable in a mixed bar when I was younger because they were a lot more fun and a lot less meat-rack. Also, I agree with the gay bar owners at the end of the article. This movement may start in the larger cities but will not reach the rural areas and smaller towns until the need for a place to be gay away from harassing influences dissipates completely.
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    Apr 26, 2008 11:08 AM GMT
    Those kids and their new fangled ideas....
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    Apr 26, 2008 2:23 PM GMT
    I like the idea of having the diversity in choosing between many gay-friendly bars over going to a few (or one) "gay" bars instead. The point has already been made, but I think it’s a good sign that the gay bar scene is merging into just “a bar scene.”

    The internet definitely isn't a replacement though... it’s not nearly as fun to get dressed up and drink while sitting alone in front of a computer screen (kinda creepy...) as it is to go to a bar filled with men. icon_smile.gif
  • TallGWMvballe...

    Posts: 1925

    Apr 26, 2008 2:33 PM GMT
    warrior_poet63 saidI like the idea of having the diversity in choosing between many gay-friendly bars over going to a few (or one) "gay" bars instead. The point has already been made, but I think it’s a good sign that the gay bar scene is merging into just “a bar scene.”

    The internet definitely isn't a replacement though... it’s not nearly as fun to get dressed up and drink while sitting alone in front of a computer screen (kinda creepy...) as it is to go to a bar filled with men. icon_smile.gif




    Why do you have to Drink (alcohol) to meet people or have a good time?
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14310

    Apr 26, 2008 2:49 PM GMT
    It is time to face reality, more gay men are seeking other social activities outside gay bars and are assimilating into the general mainstream population. Many more gay men are also very athletic and health concious which results in less drinking and other late night activities. I rarely go out to the gay clubs because it is just the same old monotonous bullshit. Since I live a more active lifestyle, I am usually in bed by 11 PM, 12 midnight at the latest. The rapid rise of gay acceptance in the mainstream society is probably making gay bars and nightclubs obsolete. This is a good thing because it shows the rest of American society that there is more to gay life than the gay bars and drag shows. icon_smile.gif
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    Apr 26, 2008 2:55 PM GMT
    I haven't been to a gay bar in years and when I did go it was definately the type of crowd that I didn't want to hang-out with. Most of the guys were younger, drunker, high on who knows what or just looking for a Sugar Daddy. On the other end of the spectrum were the piano bars full of much older guys, drag queens and cigarette smoke. There really wasn't anything that fit my lifestyle - so I stopped going and most of my friends did as well.
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    Apr 26, 2008 3:02 PM GMT
    I know that here in Baltimore, things have definitely changed over the years. There used to be one big dance club, and it was always packed every Thursday and Saturday nights..not so much anymore.

    But also, the clubs and bars haven't changed at all in the 15 years I've been here...I mean, they haven't progressed at all over the years to better suit the crowd.

    Example: the majority of the crowd that goes to the bars and clubs is 30-something and under, and doesn't really want to hear the same old gay anthems that were popular 10-15 years ago (hell, I don't want to hear the gay anthems that are popular NOW, lol), but that's what the bar owners here still choose to play.
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    Apr 26, 2008 4:12 PM GMT
    You know what I don't think I've EVER gone to a gay bar (actually, now that I remember I did go once and I turned right around and left because the crowd was much older than me and I felt SO out of place). I would much rather go to a straight bar because gay bars sound to me like they're just a meat market full of pressure to act a certain way and the worst part is that they seem dull. Yet again, I don't like bars altogether I meam straight or gay they all seem dull and alcohol-centric. Although I do love to drink, at least in a club you have the option of dancing to burn all those calories off or have an excuse to just have that physical dancing contact with that cute guy no pressure you know or at the very least you can check out the cute guys shaking their hips ... in a bar what movement can you see? Everybody is just sitting or standing around.
  • kinetic

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    Apr 26, 2008 4:19 PM GMT
    Its very true about the bars in Boston. There used to be a few good options almost every day of the week (except tuesdays) and now not so much...
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    Apr 26, 2008 4:20 PM GMT
    I'm happy to report that here in Sactown Cali just the opposite is happening. icon_twisted.gif We recently in the past two years had two new bars opened, and another on is currently under construction. I guess my home is just a little behind the time. But it sure is FUN!!! icon_cool.gif
  • kinetic

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    Apr 26, 2008 4:20 PM GMT
    I luv how they ended that segment by sampling Blur's 'Boys and Girls'!
    *sigh*
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    Apr 26, 2008 4:32 PM GMT
    Here in Seattle, and probably other places, there are a few changes going on in the gay bar scene.

    Many of the city blocks where gay bars may exist are being bought up, torn down and then the Urban living centers are popping up every where (here the urban living centers are the first floor is commercial for businesses and then condos built above). Sadly, it's becoming very sterile looking and a lot of the gay bar owners just aren't opening new places and some of it is because real estate or rent is just too high.

    Also most of the gay bars here are open 7 days a week. I think that's a poor business decision if you're only going to cater to gays. Think about how many gay establishments there are and keep them all open 7 days a week. Then think about the gay population in the city to frequent these establishments then further decrease that amount by the number of gay men who drink more than one night a week. That doesn't leave a very big population to pay your business bills. So mixing crowds and appealing to straights as well as gays is a smart business decision. Plus if you're going to drink and dance, drinks and music are generally much better at gay bars. Straight bars pour single shot drinks in to rocks glasses for 8 dollars. Gay bars make that same drink with 2 shots and in a pint glass for 8 dollars. If you drink which would you pick?? And I'm sorry but the majority of straight bar DJs play Hip-Hop which just isn't my preferred music to dance or listen to.

    More and more straight girls have always been increasing in numbers in gay dance clubs to get to the better music and away from straight men so they could dance without being hit on. It only makes sense more straight guys would figure it out and go to the gay clubs too. And if I were a gay dance club business owner I'd be happy because that's more money.

    Plus like the article states isn't being accepted and living side by side what many activist are fighting for anyway.
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    Apr 26, 2008 4:59 PM GMT
    When I moved to Toronto in 1986 there were 6 gay dance clubs one could choose from. On some nights I would visit three, because each one had its' own unique clientele (preppy, down-to-earth, older, younger).

    Now I can name only three bars that are gay all the time and have dancing. Several bars that are straight have "gay" nights.

    I personally kind of miss the days that one could go to a variety of gay dance clubs and feel totally comfortable and free. Mixed clubs have their strong points, but I don't think they would necessarily be the best place to meet another guy!

    As for the internet, it has its' benefits (it is less threatening or intimidating to talk to someone on the internet versus a bar), but there is no replacement for talking to someone face to face.
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    Apr 26, 2008 5:00 PM GMT
    I just think that now that gay men can get their sex quickies online it takes out the insentive to go out to a bar. There has always been a lack of alternative gay things to do, maybe more are popping up so people are choosing that.

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    Apr 26, 2008 5:21 PM GMT
    SactownJock saidI'm happy to report that here in Sactown Cali just the opposite is happening. icon_twisted.gif We recently in the past two years had two new bars opened, and another on is currently under construction. I guess my home is just a little behind the time. But it sure is FUN!!! icon_cool.gif


    Sacramento is the Nebraska of California. It's hardly representive of progressive people. It's part of the Meth capital of of the United states and it's full of Republicans. Nuff said.
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    Apr 26, 2008 5:29 PM GMT
    This does not make me unhappy. In fact, give me a sledgehammer and make sure Britney is playing and I will gladly help.

    Gay bars are regressive and lame. For years now, owners have ignored changing times while we head to clubs and shows that play indie and alternative rock and enjoy an atmosphere that doesn't smell like urine or have some drunk, loud, unfunny drag queen emceeing it all. Me and my friends don’t want to be surrounded by unhealthy, meth addicted, faux hawk sporting, smoking, brand and celebrity worshiping, shallow, petty lemmings anyway. We want to get out and experience real culture, with real people. Do I have great contempt for gay culture right now? Unapologetically. We suck right now. We are an apathetic, alcoholic and addicted, self absorbed, unworldly, shallow lot right now, and HIV and AIDS rates are soaring once again. And gay bars have been part of the problem, isolating and insulating gay people from reality, good influences and positive cultural exchange.

    My straight friends want to hang out with me too when I go out, and I don't want to subject them to gay separatists with attitude. It's a slap in the face when we are supported by wonderful friends who are straight and someone with non-assimilists attitude discriminates against them by making them feel unwelcome.

    I highly sudgest the End of Gay and the Death of Heterosexuality by Peter Archer for a more indebt looks on progressive gay culture and what needs to be thanked, but left behind.

    Sweeping new positive and progressive changes threaten the old order simply because they don’t know any other way to live. I share the world with many valuable straight friends who make a difference in it. I do not limit my activities to exclusionary gay events anymore and I won’t. It’s sort of like going to a “whites only” or “blacks only” rally. We are past that kind of thing. It’s just wrong. Many regions of the country have achieved exactly what we activists have fought years to bring about and that is unprecedented acceptance and assimilation. Of course, we would enjoy greater success in more areas if the representatives of those still oppressed regional gay communities would stop being such bad representatives. Gay culture is as bloated, sad and tired as an ex member of Foreigner or R.E.O. Speed wagon. OH, and FUCK Potlucks.

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    Apr 26, 2008 5:56 PM GMT
    someone's bitter about not getting laid the last 14 times he went out...
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:06 PM GMT
    I find that a lot of the straight bars here in rural PA are offering "Alternative Nights" which is scary as hell. There are some bars I wouldn't think of going to that are suddenly soliciting my business. The problem is you don't really know who you are talking to in these bars. Is he one of the regulars there on the wrong night? Or is he really someone you may want to get to know?
    Either way I never let my guard down long enough to find out. They are good for a few drinks but not at all relaxing.
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:08 PM GMT
    While I think it's great that acceptance is moving slowly forward, I have two regrets:

    1.) There's much more risk in making a proposal to another guy in a "mixed" bar if you are uncertain of his orientation. Making a pass at a straight man, or worse yet a closeted one, who has had one two many drinks and may feel threatened could end in a physical altercation at the very least. Not to mention, who wants to play the "is he or isn't he" game. I don't have time for that.

    2.) As a DJ, I recognize that gay clubs have always had the corner on the house music market. If the younger guys aren't aware, most good gay DJ's break new music long before the mixed club-goers hear it on the radio. For example, we were playing Robin S's Show Me Love 6 months before it crossed over into top 40 land. And when is the last time you heard a Suzanne Palmer song on the radio or in a straight club, not to mention the more obscure, yet loved, house music? Straight clubs (with rare exceptions in extremely large cities) have the reputation of only playing music that people know the words to and can sing along with and that is mostly booty music and rap. I personally would rather forge a new trail than be led around like a lost sheep by the music industry.

    Alas, all things change. I just hope that with the benefits gained we don't lose some of the positive culture we have a right to be proud of!
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:24 PM GMT
    I don't think this is a new trend. In fact, I've been complaining about it for years. And not so much about the bars, but the impact on other gay groups.

    Here in Ann Arbor (your small midwestern college town), I'd say that gay activity peaked in the early-to-mid 1990s. Ann Arbor had a full-time gay bar ("The Flame") since the 1930s or 40s and in 1983 one of the big straight clubs ("Nectarine Ballroom", now "the Necto" smallroom) introduced "Boys Night Out" (on Tuesdays). Then they made Friday night another gay night, and then Sunday, too. Another gay-only bar ("Aut") opened in 1994.

    Today the Flame is gone and Necto is only gay on Fridays (and its more mixed).

    Outside the bar scene, there were lots of other townie and student groups that were happening. There was the "East Quad Group", a coming out group for students in the dorms. There were medical and engineering and library science and other college gay groups. There was Qup (not exactly like Act Up, not sure what their mission was). There was also a "chem free" dance known as "Club Fab" (which is where I met Matt the 2nd time, got his football tickets and personal info, and the rest is history.)

    Off campus there was "Canterbury House", a weekly open-house originally started by the Episcopalians but which quickly lost any religious affiliation and was a bar alternative with a weekly draw of 50-100 people in its heyday. There was gay volleyball and gay soccer, BBQs/picnics and canoe trips (which I organized) and the Wasthenaw (county) Rainbow Action Project was started.

    I left town in 1998. OK, that's overly dramatic. I moved to a Detroit suburb 30 minutes away. Now "married", I dropped off the scene. My friends graduated and moved away and Matt's friends were in the Detroit area. While it worked, we were never really happy in the "bedroom community" where we lived, midway between Ann Arbor and Detroit's gay epicentre (the Ferndale/Royal Oak area) - which we also frequented only rarely.

    Hmmm, this may be another development detrimental to the bars. Are more gay people now partnering in monogamous relationships and thus exiting the market?

    Matt and I returned to Ann Arbor 3 years ago, but in the interim many of the groups disappeared. Canterbury House, volleyball, soccer, Qup, East Quad Group, Club Fab, some of the professional groups... all gone. WRAP was faltering, too.

    I think it's a good thing that people are out enough with their straight friends that they don't need gay-only environments. Nonetheless I fear that the pendulum may be swinging too much in the other direction. Will we end up with a "community" which is only virtual? Where people meet on-line for (virtual) sex but otherwise socialize amongst the population at large?
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:29 PM GMT
    I think its great that gay bars are dying off with the younger generation.
    Its ludicrous to associate the free social behavior of coming out with getting drunk, and certainly the pattern of getting drunk, which is what so many gay men do. So many men in Dallas develop not only dysfunctional drinking patters from it but dysfunctional social patterns also.

    My hope is that younger kids are connecting to gay sports and other healthy activities to socialize with other gay people their age.
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    Apr 26, 2008 6:45 PM GMT
    PupDog saidI think its great that gay bars are dying off with the younger generation.
    Its ludicrous to associate the free social behavior of coming out with getting drunk, and certainly the pattern of getting drunk, which is what so many gay men do. So many men in Dallas develop not only dysfunctional drinking patters from it but dysfunctional social patterns also.

    My hope is that younger kids are connecting to gay sports and other healthy activities to socialize with other gay people their age.


    Exactly! You rock PupDog.
  • Menergy_1

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    Apr 26, 2008 6:55 PM GMT
    Well, whether it's a good or a bad thing, the trend has happened in New Mexico (at least the Albuquerque/Santa Fe part of the state).

    Recently all (maybe 5-7 ?) the gay bars but one in Albuquerque, the largest city in NM, closed. The remaining one ("Sidewinder" - used to be called "The Ranch") is a mix, or was the one time I visited there, of gay college-age men (U of NM is in Albuqueerque as some pronounce it), wannabee cowboys, bears, and some just "ordinary" guys meeting in a place they feel comfortable in. There was a great DJ on duty at the time, too.

    The Pride Gym in Albuquerque, which turned almost into a bath house-type facility on Friday and Saturday nights, has closed or been closed down.

    Santa Fe has a large gay (and especially lesbian) population compared to the total population. But I think as a generalization, I can say a large number if not mostt of the guys here are already partnered. Sure, there are the singles and partners playing around on craig's list, the personals sites, etc. - but really I think because so many men here are already in relationships/partnerships, and everyone in Santa Fe sort of mixes it up together anyway, there are NO bars, clubs, restaurants, gyms etc. that are exclusively gay. Everything here is purportedly "gay friendly" or "gay owned" but does not have an exclusively gay clientele. There were a couple of clubs here a few years ago, I'm told (I moved here in 2004), both of which have closed down and one reopened as a generic dance club/multi-level bars establishment with a restaurant -- all pretty conservative, if I can use that term. There is a very nice gym with good equipment, a good clientele, and a very "active" sauna and steam room -- and the people at the gym are of all persuasions, but especially gay .

    So -- I agree I like diversity and mixing in comfortably, etc. etc. Maybe it's true the younger generations are less likely to frequent a one-flavor place; I don't know. Also I do know and agree that at least in a place like Santa Fe -- there's no public gay "action" going on any more in the sense of entertainment, social gathering/watering places, a place where you feel you know to whom you're talking and don't risk mis-steps in those situations. The situation seems like a time-warp in which gay men and lesbians are generally not seen or really a part of the social weave in some ways. On the other hand, Santa Fe and even parts of Albuquerque being casual, artsy, open-minded, spiritual, full of zen overtones, etc. people of all walks mingle and probably are identified as who and what they are, but I don't hear of any real frictions and problems or gay bashing going on here...so maybe the shifting and evolution of society is happening here, too.

    Maybe the large Hispanic population and history and the Catholic Church's presence over time here have also influenced how things have turned out in NM.

    I had just wished I had been able to find the gay friends I wanted more easily when I first moved here. I'm fine now.