Are bars simply non-viable businesses now?

Video killed the Radio Star and now Grindr has killed the Gay Bar.  Or has it?

Social media apps are killing the gay bar scene, claiming as their latest victim New Zealand’s longest-running gay venue.

Urge in Auckland is the ninth gay bar to shut down in New Zealand over the past two years because of dwindling patronage, echoing the closures of international gay hotspots in New York, San Francisco and Sydney.

Sociologist Michael Stevens blames the internet, as apps such as Grindr, and social change, render such venues redundant.

“In the past you had to go to a venue to meet other LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people, today you don’t.”

Now people can just grab a phone, swipe left or right according to preference – at work, in bed or in a meeting.

Must be a tough realisation that few actually came to your bar because you were running a place people want to have a drink.  

“Gay bars were a safe place to see a friendly face and not be judged,” said Shane Way, event manager and performer for Hamilton’s gay bar Shine, which shut down in March.

“These day it’s become more accepted in society so gay people don’t just go to gay bars.”

Urge co-owner Paul Heard announced the bar’s closure this month after 17 years, describing it as the “toughest day I’ve had”.

Stevens said many LGBT venues, like Urge, were set up in cheap fringe areas of the city 10 or 20 years ago but that real estate is now more desirable. In 10 years, rent and rates have skyrocketed from $66,000 a year to nearly $200,000.

And cheaper alcohol at supermarkets encourages punters to “pre-load” before hitting town.

“They are businesses and need to turn a profit but they have also operated as community centres and meeting points.”

Social media apps aren’t really killing the bar scene then.  Cheaper alcohol, highly accessible alcohol, public acceptability of gay lifestyles and rocketing rent and rates rises are probably truly to blame.

But that wouldn’t have made the headline.

Of course, the lowering of the drink-drive alcohol limit won’t help either.   Basically, who wants to go to a bar these days?   Is it bars that are on the way out?


– Jess McAllen, Stuff

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