Many long-running, successful gay bars around the world have been closing over the last few years, and the rise of homosexual online dating apps are supposedly to blame. However, the prevalence of straight dating apps has exploded as well, and yet the business of traditional, heterosexual bars remains stable. In fact, many straight bars are finding new life as safe meet-up places for first dates, even for non-drinkers.
Gay bars provide purposes the dating apps cannot entirely replace, such as spaces to hold fundraisers and political events, plus a safe and organic way to make friends, network, and date within the same sex.
So if not for apps, then why are these centers of civil rights disappearing?
The theories include:
- Gays are more accepted in general and can congregate more freely in “normal” establishments.
- Gays have more straight friends than in the past, and so often spend social nights out with them.
- Gay clubs are stuck in an EDM and drug-based loop, which is very unappealing to gay professionals.
- Gentrification: rising rents are pricing the clubs out.
#1 is the most supported by evidence. While points 2 and 3 are based on published anecdotal accounts, and also by nature cannot be easily quantified, #4 gentrification has been well-documented.
Most gay bars have survived for years in second-tier parts of the urban landscape, and so join many other businesses that are getting caught in the cycle of economic progress.
The placement of gay bars is determined by the residency of gays. Up until the 1980s, gays were liable to face loan discrimination, and so often chose places “less-desirable” to live that were cheap enough to be paid for in cash.
According to an article by the UK’s Guardian,
(Gays) choice of where to live is not limited by money alone. As Michaels, a transplant to New York from rural Oregon who still subsists on a below-average income, puts it: “I didn’t leave the country[side] because I wanted to, I was pushed out. As a queer person in America growing up in the country, I did not find rural areas to be safe, welcoming or financially viable – it was only in the cities where I was able to make a stable income.
Some say LGBT residents, especially gay men, cause most gentrification, bringing with their residencies artisanal food and coffee, expensive furniture and boutiques, and remodeled apartments.
In addition to their vulnerable geography in the face of gentrification, gay bars are also less likely to be able to adjust to the rising rents. By only seeing business at night, they cannot diversify like traditional bars can with food and happy hours, to draw some daytime revenue.
Yet, if cost is such a concern for a struggling gay bar, and existence so crucial, then why not relocate to another part of town, even knowing the cycle may repeat in a couple decades?
This brings us back to point #1: while gay bars are an endangered species, that fact indicates a promising phenomenon: the declining need for such exclusivity and protection. More bars are now “gay-friendly,” and can serve as meet-up spots for any gender combination of couple. Just as sexual orientation no longer defines a person, so patrons no longer define an establishment.