Gay events are happening in mainstream bars: good or bad?

 

Arthur Tam and Nick Chan talk to customers about their attitudes towards mainstream bars hosting gay events and whether they think it’s a detriment to the LGBTI community

It’s no secret that Hong Kong’s gay nightlife scene is quite limited. The number of LGBTI establishments on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon doesn’t even break two dozen and just last year, our city lost two of its most popular gay bars – Déjà vu and Psychic Jack. In light of the dwindling number of gay venues, mainstream bars and clubs have been opting to host gay nights during the weekdays to capitalise on the growing strength of the pink dollar. Popular club Play launched Foreplay, Linq offers a weekly Wednesday and Friday gay happy hour and Tivo hosts a Sunday Tea Dance. From a customer standpoint, these weekly weekday events have provided a new fun-filled way to break up the usual scene and, from a company standpoint, they are finally able to capitalise on a new demographic on their quieter nights. However, as a consequence, long time gay establishments have been suffering from the loss of important clientele and it poses the question of whether customers are on the bandwagon for mainstreaming or whether they still value the importance of LGBTI specific bars and clubs. 

We visit Foreplay on a Wednesday night to ask a few customers about their thoughts. “To be honest, the ‘straight’ clubs hold better gay nights than actual gay bars,” says 24-year-old Rex Ng. “The DJs are better and the dance floor is usually packed. Gay men also like to have other good-looking men around and Play definitely has them. Volume and Propaganda are a little old-fashioned these days, very few go there anymore. It’s all about the ambiance.” 

“If gay clubs aren’t offering better gay nights then nothing is really taken away from our community,” says 28-year-old Ryan Chan. “Straight clubs are simply offering another venue for gay nights and if more gay men prefer those clubs, it’s a matter of preference.” For these young gents, they welcome the idea for new nights to party, regardless of the venue.

There are concerns, however. “I would like to know if the ‘straight’ bars are just trying to make money on a school night or are they also contributing back to the [LGBTI] community,” says 29-year-old Billy Leung, as we speak to him outside T:me, a gay bar on the boarder of Central and Sheung Wan. “Doing things for profit is fine, but I think there has to be some balance. Do they give donations? Or lend out their venue for non-profit events?”

According to PR Manager Genna Soh, Play does contribute back to the LGBTI community. “We have cash sponsored part of the NOH8 Campaign, when they were present in HK. We’ve hosted events with AIDS Concern and part of our champagne sales goes to them, and we are helping out with some events for the upcoming Pink Season.”

Evan Steer, the co-owner of the Sheung Wan gay club Volume Beat has recently added a karaoke night on Wednesdays to attract the weekday crowd back to his establishment. “At the end of the day, it’s a free market and businesses have to step up their game with better products, events and services to stay in the game, resulting in better products for the community,” he says. However, Steer leaves customers with a rather foreboding message. “It’s up to individuals to decide where they want to spend their pink dollars, but it’s the consequences of those decisions we’ll have to live with over the years to come.”

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