Why are gay bars dying? How can we bring them back to life?

Eater recently did a documentary on the gentrification of gayborhoods such as Boystown in Chicago which has brought up the topic of gay bars and clubs that have recently closed. Some of these have been major heartbreakers such as Town Dance Boutique in D.C. and Jungle in Atlanta that recently closed down to bring in apartment complexes full of concrete and boxed living. Taking the rainbow out of the fun we could be having in the beautiful night air.

Here are a few of the biggest reasons we are losing gay bars and clubs:
1. Grindr and Hook-up Apps such as Scruff
2. Gentrification
3. Bachelorette Parties with straight girls wreaking havoc leading to worse music being played and more generic drag numbers to please them.
4. Less sexualization. The hard-on is replaced with
5. Bad Music. DJ’s not doing their homework and playing too much mainstream music that is in the Billboard top 10 and not enough of the future gay icons.
6. Gays fit in more at Straight Clubs and Bars now
7. Not keeping up with the trends or re-inventing themselves.

It’s nearly impossible to break into the nightclub niche because of liquor licenses and dance permits and the liability. So you have only a handful of people who get to run everything in every city. Same promoters and the same owners. Hopefully it changes at some point as it’s become too generic and not the exotic club (escape from reality) it could be.

Some gay bars are closing because the need for them is less in terms of safe spaces. “I’m from the South and I don’t think you’ll ever see gay bars go away there because there is still hostility towards the gay community so not every bar is accessible to our community. Unless you’re in a major city in the North East, most places have become too gay friendly so bars are closing. In many places the tone has shifted so now members of our community feel comfortable going into any bar, whereas previously, gay bars were the only safe space to go..” Says Randall and he went on to say “It will always be necessary to have gay spaces, but it is a lot more meaningful is gay people find acceptance everywhere.”

In some cities the gay clubs are growing, but that’s because the cities are growing and straight women feel more comfortable in a gay club now. Which can also lead to gays not wanting to frequent them as much.

“Early on, gay bars were the only way to meet and have it be acceptable in society. It wasn’t common to meet or date or go out in public before as we can now. Gay bars were a way to do those things, to be social, to express ourselves, to let off steam and to build connections with people we would otherwise not have known. As we grow and society becomes more accepting of gays and lesbians, we see more openness and we see lgbt people taking all the precious reasons and taking them out of the club scene and incorporating them into socially common activities.” – Howard GG20 Group.

“Besides the affordability issue plaguing the vast majority of us in the age group that typically would want to go out, I think a lot of it has to do with the rise of dating apps, because why go out and pay to drink and talk to someone when you can find out whether you have a shot just by sending them a junk shot? Also, women taking over our spaces and treating us like a side-show attraction when we make out is annoying. I miss bars that required each woman to be escorted by a gay male, who was responsible for her conduct throughout the evening. #gaybars4gays” – Christopher

“The only way nightlife will come back to life is if the media (movies, TV Shows, etc.) starts making it seem cool again. Notice how in 2013 electronic music and “raving” was a huge mainstream thing? It was because of movies like Project X were super popular which glorified partying and EDM.” Aaron G.
Stefan: I don’t know about that! But what I’d say is nightlife needs to keep evolving and changing. It can get stagnant and boring
Aaron: I own an event production company for a living and lets just say when all the media was about EDM and Raving I was making bank haha every high schooler and college kid in 2013 wanted to go to raves and listen to electronic music. Now we don’t get even half the amount of business.
Stefan: I don’t know, big edm DJs get some do the best turnouts when they show up to town here. But I also spent the summer in Europe. Where I’ll say the nightlife and clubs were way better than anything here. Interesting venues. Great music. Themed parties
Aaron: Rolling Stone did an article on it last year I believe. Basically to some it up they said even the biggest night clubs in the USA are struggling to stay open and many are closing because our generation has little interest in going out now that you can …See More
Aaron: Well I have been working in the industry for almost a decade and can tell u how much smaller it’s gotten and how people especially people under 21 now have very minimal interest in partying or nightclubs or festivals.
D.j. : Might be a good point as Queer as Folk was a show that made everyone want to go out. Now everything is about going to brunch or taking a dog for a walk in gay films lol.

Jarret: For my group at least, we moved into the circuit scene and prefer houseparties. That, and my city closed all the gays clubs. The only one left is a dump with shitty drag shows and terrible music.
Jarret: Lmao oh god no. I’ve been going to that club for 10+ years. I’ve supported it enough haha. Now it’s jam packed with university students spilling their drinks on you and taking up the dancefloor because they think they are the hottest shit around (I did this when younger too haha). It gets old fast.
Jarret: It’s also the only gay club with a dance floor in the city, so it’s insanely packed that you can’t even dance anyway, and they take up most of the night with bad drag shows (all the good drag moved to a much larger city nearby).

Saul: In SF it’s for a different reason – they’re not really dying. The cost of living just keeps escalating, so fewer people are in them.

In Sacramento, where I’m from, they were dying long before the advent of apps. But everything did feel a *lot* different. I often wonder what it’s like for gay youth today. For me, I had to sneak on my family computer and possibly find a shady guy to meet on AOL Instant Messenger, AOL itself, or gay.com. Or Adam4Adam. The latter two I feel weren’t available until I was about moved out of the house. So connecting with the gay scene then meant sneaking out to youth groups or standing outside gay bars and wearing come fuck me outfits.

Nowadays I don’t think people experience that. I wonder the rise of anti-bullying sentiments at schools and acceptance of homosexuality, and the ability to use apps, have caused a lot of younger folk to find their footing via other means.

Regardless, in Sacramento, the gay bars have been fractured by a straight community that thinks those bars are better than their own. So yes, it’s been a safe space there that’s been dying for more than a decade.

Aaron: Its not gay bars that are dying. Its all nightlife in the USA. Bars and night clubs are struggling to stay open recently and some of the biggest ones in the country have shut down completely. Our generation has the least interest in night life of any recent past generation. We don’t find the need to go out and party as much since we now have apps and social media to meet new people on instead. I own an event production company and put on party tours around New England at night clubs and venues and its 1000x harder to get people to go then it was even just 5 years ago.

Stefan Koltz At least in my city, they’re dying/closing for a couple of reasons. 1. Is that the need for specifically gay places is less needed most likely. 2. The old gayborhood where many of the bars had been has become a hot neighborhood, with many of the old bars owners nearing a retirement age, many have sold the spaces or getting bought out.

I honestly think gay bars are still important and great spaces, even if sometimes anxiety inducing. But they now usually need to offer more of something. Like a niche almost

Tyler: And I know a way to bring them back to life. Make them all 18+

Oscar: I definitely agree with the safe space point. I was in New Orleans recently and the one time I went to a straight bar and kissed the guy I was with we started getting called names. We had to leave because there was a group that was about to approach us. Definitely staying near the gay bars in the south ??

Brian: I think multiple factors are in play. Dating/hookup apps eliminate a need to go out and meet guys in bar settings. Political/social/media climates and LGBTQ rights over the past couple decades have changed the community’s need for safe spaces, and made gay become more “mainstream” with less of a sense of hiding. There’s the stance that specific labels (“gay” bars) aren’t needed anymore for spaces and that there’s a need for inclusivity. There’s less hostility towards the community, dependent on where you live. There’s also a constant ebb and flow with bar scenes in general that parallel current events at the time. People go out and drink more when life gets heavy. And honestly, sometimes the patrons make or break a scene dependent on how welcoming they can be.

Gay bars were always rites of passage for self-acceptance and the realization that you’re not alone, so that feeling is eliminated the more the LGBTQ community is recognized and embraced publicly. I guess the best way to bring them back to life is addressing the “why” first and go from there? ?

People that are stuck in their ways are bars that play bland music and do not hire djs that do their homework on mixes that you don’t hear all day long on top 40 (really top 10) radio.

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been there done that. and i wanna do it again in a better way.

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