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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  • Well, I had a beer with dinner last night. One. It was very good: the food was superb. But I am staying on the Coromandel and walked back to the motel. If I am driving, it’s water or soft drinks.

    The only time to go to a bar is if a good band is playing. Bars are dying. Music venues, however, like Chick’s Hotel, keep on going.

  • caochladh

    Bars are simply like any other business. To stay in business you must give the customers what they want and keep refreshing the offerings.

  • Grizz30

    Bars now also have to serve food. Could an underperforming kitchen be another reason for the bar’s closure.

  • All_on_Red

    Perhaps we will see the rise again of small neighbourhood bars you can walk to. Just like they use to have before everything went all booze barns. Nah, the Council won’t allow that!

  • Ginny

    This doesn’t surprise me. I travelled with a gay couple in a tour group and subsequently became facebook friends. Although they were very nice, i had to defriend one of them as he only had one thing on his mind, and it wasn’t alcohol!

  • mommadog

    The last bar I went to was to see a band play and that was over a year ago. The bar for bar’s sake is long gone. Although restaurants with liquor licences will still do well as people have a drink with a meal. There is no reason to go out just to have a drink and pay $7-8 for a glass of wine when I can get a nice bottle for $10 to $15 and have a quiet after work or weekend drink at home. I am not driving or paying for a taxi. When asked, the only reason some of my acquaintances / friends go to a bar now is to play the pokies. If the pokie machines left, there would be no reason for these businesses to be open at all with perhaps the exception of those bars that also are music venues.

  • 1951

    Maybe it is no longer fashionable ..?

  • Ratchette

    Much more fun to congregate around a BBQ with your buddies & tell lies.

  • Skydog

    In Christchurch a beer will cost around $10 – $13.50. If you have a couple Mr Plod will be after you. Non alcoholic drinks are well over priced. Public transport is not the best. Everyone is too busy communicating with their ‘friends’ in cyber space rather those who make the effort to come in person.

    There are many reason why I don’t go out like I used to.

  • Wheninrome

    Sports Clubs with their lower drink prices might be the new way to go. Might assist with their funding, an influx of “members”. Easy to provide ride home.

    • Ratchette

      Quite correct. Sports clubs and other clubs way to go.
      I meet friends at the boating/fishing club, and surprise, surprise we all have a common interest which makes for a great experience every time.

    • TayheiNotts

      The excessive compliance costs have forced bars to charge so much. Then the pre-loading has dented their turnover. Their awful charges have made sports club bars more attractive- generally the dickwits of society are absent from them. With people used to the high bar charges sports clubs can achieve a desirable gross profit percentage, which in many cases makes their subscription income look like peanuts. Of course, strict internal controls and inventory controls are absolutely necessary. Many people use my sports club as a bank. whenever there is $50 or so in the till they want an eftpos withdrawal. That keeps cash on hand to a minimum, and enhances the cash controls. And the committee, in their discretion, can ban any pugilist from the club. Pissheads, who don’t annoy other people, are welcome.

  • HSV325

    Ok here is the full picture if you get nabbed between 250-400. $200.00 fine, 50 demerit points and an instant 12 hour driving ban. I think clubs that provide transport will be ok.

  • CJA

    From what I have seen from a financial perspective you have to be very good to make them work. Otherwise they are complete money pits.

  • BlitzkriegNZ

    Last time we went out was to see behemoth, didn’t buy a drink and left straight after the set. I can’t even remember the last time I wasted money at a bar. The major bar owner in tauranga that I know of allegedly makes all his cash off the drugs he pushes through them.

  • Tom

    If you narrow your patrons to a few in society then surely after a while it will fail.

  • Mick Ie

    Maybe gays don’t feel the need to hide away in gay bars anymore? Those that I love and know go to bars that heterosexuals also go to.

    • Hedgehog

      Yep, I think you have hit the nail on the head. There is no need for the separation, most in today’s society do not care if you are straight or gay, and most have both straight and gay friends.

  • Honcho

    At the top of my Christmas wishlist this year is a personal breathalyzer, that will give you a hint as to what is happening with the ‘bar scene’, after work drinks on Fridays are all but doomed as are the pubs who are relying on that patronage.
    What used to be two pints over a couple of hours sharing a bowl of chips, is now one and straight home, or just straight home …. those who provide good food, the joints that are nice enough to take the girl too, grab a pint have woodfired pizza for dinner, they will be the places which survive, the rest are doomed.

  • Bars have always been a tough business to be in, there is one around the corner from me now that has had 5 names under 5 owners in 7 years Different target markets can have a huge effect on it. You want a young bar, you could have lots of money if your lucky, but it will lose fashion and you will go broke. You want a family bar, you are self selecting for an market that is watching the pennies, you will never be rich off that bar no mater how hard you work. When you target only trhe social minded od one gender of 10% of the population your on to a losing proposition.