Midnight Shift in Sydney closes
High rents and falling patronage force many gay bars to close. After 35 years as one of Sydney’s best-known gay nightclubs, The Midnight Shift, shut its main doors for the last time, leaving only the smaller upstairs bar to open on weekends. In Melbourne, the beloved gay bar The Greyhound (or GH) has also been demolished.
It has madke way for what is expected to be apartments on the site of the former 163-year-old building. While in Brisbane a number of gay venues have closed over the past few years.
Like so many other defunct gay venues around Australia, they’ve all fallen victim to soaring commercial property prices, high rents, state government licensing laws, online apps for meeting like-minded people and, say some, the LGBTQI’s own victories.
“In countries like Australia, we have become victims of our own success,” said Noel Lee of The Bookshop Darlinghurst, Australia’s longest-running bookshop for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people, a hub for the community and unofficial information centre for gay Sydney for 35 years.
“With a lot more mainstream acceptance, younger people haven’t been forged by the same forces that created the original sense of community and need for exclusivity of the older generation. A lot of people moved online to make connections and young gay kids go to mainstream clubs with their straight friends. These kind of venues just aren’t needed in the same way.”
Yet many lament their passing. Once the epicentre of gay Australia, Sydney’s Oxford Street is today a pale shadow of its former vibrant, pink self, with many boarded up shopfronts and empty premises. Gone are The Albury, the Gay Bar and the old Exchange – now an Italian restaurant and bar – while The Oxford Hotel, The Colombian and Kinselas are no longer as gay as they once were.
It’s probably no coincidence that, in a top-100 ranking of LGBT cities, released in June to mark London’s Pride and the 48th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Sydney came in at a lowly 32 on the list. Melbourne did markedly better in the rental accommodation aggregator Nestpick’s study, at number 14, while Brisbane appeared at number 65.
Still, the gay scene in Melbourne is decidedly flat, with GH’s closure leaving only a handful of gay venues still buzzing. Tom McFeely has been at The Peel Hotel in Collingwood for the past 27 years, 22 as its owner.
“I don’t agree with the argument that the gay bars aren’t needed so much more now because the community has been accepted by everyone else,” he said.
“Yes, they do feel more comfortable in straight bars, but the game-changer is when they want to be more intimate with each other in the same way a boy and girl might be.
“They may be welcomed into those bars, cafes and restaurants, but that doesn’t mean the customers and staff treat them in the same way as other couples. So we still need safe places for guys. But sadly, there’s only a few venues left, and a few others that might have just one gay night a week.”
The major factor in the decline of these venues throughout Australia is undoubtedly economic, believes University of Western Sydney geography and urban studies associate professor Andrew Gorman-Murray.
When gay venues first started to open in the 1970s, they were in run down, cheap parts of the inner city, he said. That low cost was an important enabler for the gay community, just as it has been elsewhere across the English-speaking world, including in San Francisco, New York, Toronto and London.
Read the full story at: commercialrealestate.com.au