QUESTION: Where have all the Dublin gay bars gone?
Is the LGBTQ community in Dublin being properly catered for?
At the end of 2016 it was announced that The Front Lounge would be closing its doors as a gay bar and would be eventually re-opening as a reggae club. With that, the total number of LGBTQ locations in Dublin has dropped to a paltry TWO: The George and PantiBar. With a population approaching one and a half million, and a recorded 3% of the population self-identifying as “not straight”, that’s A LOT of people who have very little to choose from in terms of nightlife.
— The George (@TheGeorgeBar) May 6, 2016
Of course the issue isn’t Dublin specific – at the time of writing, Galway and Cork both only appear to have one gay bar each, and Belfast has one bar and one nightclub – but considering Ireland has planted the rainbow flag of pride after the marriage referendum, where have all the gay bars gone?
The Front Lounge follows closely on the heels of The Dragon, which similarly closed its doors despite constantly appearing busy, and the current lack of options is more than a little bizarre, especially in the light of the re-emerging bar boom that is happening elsewhere in the city.
Sure, there’s the argument that any bar is open to the LGBTQ community, and there are plenty of once-a-week or once-a-month specialized gay nights around the city, from Daddi in Voodoo and Fur in The Adelphi, to Mother or PrHOMO in The Hub, but is that enough to make up the void left behind by an actual location for the community to call their own? As progressive as we all want to believe Dublin to be, there’s still going to be a concern that if a gay couple were to kiss in the middle of an otherwise “straight” bar or nightclub, some drunken homophobe will say or do something ignorant, foolish, or worse.
You don’t have to look very far to find cities that have a far more varied selection, from pretty much all of Soho in London, or Canal Street in Manchester, both of which seem to follow the Castro rule in San Francisco, where all of the gay bars have bandied together and set themselves up a little village, but that was one of the things that kind of worked to Dublin’s gay nightlife advantage - going from one to the next required a little stroll across the city centre.
Speaking to Cormac Cashman, the club promoter for gay nights Mother, PrHomo and Sweatbox, he says “The products just didn’t match what people wanted. I don’t think them being gay bars has anything to do with why they closed. I think they were just a bit stagnant!”
We asked Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss, about the apparently dwindling options: "The scene is consolidating everywhere. Loads of gay venues closed in the last couple of years in London, New York, San Francisco. A combination of rents, less of a need because younger gay people are more configurable socialising in regular bars, and the internet. People meet people online. But there will always be a need for gay spaces."
— Dr Panti Bliss (@PantiBliss) November 13, 2016
We live in a city with a week-long gay pride festival, a gay film festival once a year, a gay theatre festival, and countless other annual pro-LGBTQ events, so how has it fallen down so badly in this one regard? There are more Starbucks outlets just on Westmoreland Street than there are gay bars in the entire city.
It is something that should be remedied, and there are plenty of opportunities out there to fill the gap. The Front Lounge didn’t start life as a gay bar, the community just decided to set up shop there and make it their own, with the likes of The Ivy on Parliment Street and The Front Door on Dame Street turning into up-and-coming hot-spots for hang-outs, but in reality, there should be another venue set-up to specifically cater to the crowd.
So come on, the movers and shakers of Dublin, the club owners and the nightlife creators, it’s time to get involved in the scene that is calling out for somewhere new to spend their money and have a great time in. Dublin needs a great new gay bar!