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February 5, 2012 10:59 PM   Subscribe

How do we save our favourite gay bar?!

So there are two big gay dance clubs in my city. One is older and busier. It is also well known for being sexist, transphobic, making false claims about charitable donations, getting kids hooked on hard drugs to make them return, etc. The second has been open for a couple of years and in that time has made a positive contribution and been a safer space.

Anyway. The nice one has been struggling, for a variety of reasons, but lots of it boils down to the fact that the other one is willing to fight dirty and has a better reputation for being busy (ie. fun). Sensing doom, some local community members/patrons have recently been meeting to plan out lots of events and projects to get more people into the good bar. Apparently we are a little late though, because tonight they announced that they will probably be closing in a few weeks and that they have a conditional offer to buy it from someone.

There is already a big event planned for a couple of days to show our support, but what else can we do? I haven't found any stories online of successful campaigns to save a bar. Is it even possible to go back from a "conditional sale? How do we get the message out that we have to save this place and that the other place sucks without sounding like some kind of pearl-clutching anti-drug psa?
posted by rosken to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not positive on how one would cancel a "conditional sale" [apart from the bar violating whatever the conditions are] , but in terms of saving the bar...

If your preferred bar is struggling for financial reasons, be sure to organize and coordinate with the bar. Other than local fundraisers and increasing the number of clientele, Kickstart is a wonderful resource. The Silent Barn, which is sort of a hybrid bar/music venue/arcade, is a great success story. If the owner hasn't already, you can assist them by placing ads in local gay-interest magazines or advertising in LGBT centers. Even organizing some sort of social sports league [darts, dodgeball, ping-pong] within the bar might help draw in new customers. I don't think attacking the other bar is the way to go. Rather, just focus on promoting the bar that you frequent.

But, honestly, it's completely up to the owners if they want to save the bar. They might be selling due to pre-existing debt or because they simply no longer want to run a bar. Since you mentioned that there's multiple factors that influenced the move to sell, it might be a good idea to look to another bar. You mention that there's "two big gay dance clubs".. but is there smaller venues? A bar that's not a dance club per se but could be influenced to be converted into a dance club [at least on certain nights]? What about an established dance club that's not necessarily a gay bar, but is extremely gay-friendly?
posted by oxfordcomma at 11:24 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

A conditional sale is a contract. As soon as the conditions are met, the bar will be sold. Conditions are usually straightforward things like the buyer's ability to obtain financing and so not something an activist could easily stop.

My suggestion is to continue the community organizing and to try to form a good relationship with the new owners so they don't ruin it.
posted by michaelh at 3:47 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are two kinds of dance bars - those which are owned by frillionaires, who couldn't care less if they really make money, so long as everyone has a good time - and those which need to make money to keep the doors open. The former, like Heaven in London, stay open forever and don't change much. The latter usually last about three years, if they really work at it.

It takes a lot of energy, time and money to run a dance bar, and it's 24/7/365, and it seems like you are in a time warp. You can either be totally proactive and lead the way on everything, or you can always play catch-up. It wears out fast.

The ones I've seen make it usually have a small front bar with a very, very strong happy hour crowd until 11, and then the gym doors burst open and the dancing begins. Happy Hour keeps the lights on. More importantly, it doubles your customers.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:50 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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