Thursday, February 27, 2014

Doing A COP 24/7 360

The Gay Bar: Gasping for Life in the Age of Equality

It was the place that most folks couldn't wait to visit. The spot where the beautiful people, trendsetters, bawdy and worldly men and women went to be. Mysterious, complex, and often
times with "Oz" like atmosphere in which you could be almost anyone you wanted to be especially gay. I was spurred to create this post in reference to not only the impending closing of MK's later this week, but also recent chatter concerning "all things gay bar."

Just for the record, I've always loved going to the various local haunts such as 70's The French Quarter where it all begin through the "Crisco Disco," days of Memphis's mainstay George's up to later venues such as Discovery among too many more now defunct. I don't consider them the good ole days since I'm glad to still be around, hence all days for myself are the good old days! Unfortunately for today's young set, they are not aware of so much history surrounding the "bar" as they evolved from off the beaten path, dimly lit and yes even segregated with the Drummer's Club demarcation line with Black's on one side and White's on the other side of the room.

Believe it or not, gay bars have not always been bastions of "equality" not only in Little Rock but distinct racist policies existed as cited by The National Association of Black and White Men Together ground breaking 1980's Bar Discrimination project. The report highlighted wide spread discriminatory practices from multiple carding to employment including not just in the hiring phase but also in wage disputes similar to the recent local circumstances of former bar employees demanding and achieving a reported resolution to unpaid wages. Even though the bar scene was to be a gathering place or hub to mobilize, often times these very places have often demonstrated the greatest affront to the equality that we now seek from the mainstream.

In 2007, Entrepreneur magazine put gay bars on its list of businesses facing extinction, along with record stores and pay phones. And it's not just that gays are hanging out in straight bars; some are eschewing bars altogether and finding partners online or via location-based smartphone apps like Grindr, Qrushr, and Scruff. Between 2005 and 2011, the number of gay and lesbian bars and clubs in gay-travel-guide publisher Damron's database decreased by 12.5 percent, from 1,605 to 1,405. Could the double whammy of mainstreaming and technology mean that gay bars are doomed?

I'm not so sure that either of those barometers are most significant on the local front. What I have surmised is that the city's gay community has often been taken for granted with the mindset of "love it or leave it." As a bar patron and observer, what I continue to hear and witness is a dizzying fruit loop mash up of poor customer service when bartenders are most absorbed by smart phones, television sets or oblivious to patrons. I've chided a couple of folks that "I am not a drink. I am a person who would like to be acknowledge."

The complaints, aggravations, and down right disgust has become "topic A" in many circles including Facebook where folks simply don't mind putting it out there about there "thumb's down" to low to no beverages, cleanliness, and other negative perceptions that just exacerbate the whole hot mess. Of course I realize that there are two sides to every story. There's there side, customer's view and then there's the truth of the matter that we've had better and deserve it.

At this time, It seems that The New Six Ten has become favored due to it welcoming nature, trendy atmosphere and at least for now you can enjoy what ever your drinking pleasure. Also the venue has moved forward with food options including recently adding some different choices at reasonable prices. Across town late night venue, Trinity continues to plug away with its 18 and up crowd that seem to be pleased with what's being offered in dancing and shows. Late night grand dame Discovery continues its long running trek to embrace new alternative audiences while adding named entertainers to its entertainment mix.

All in all, for those who don't do bars anymore for a variety of reasons, that's just fine, but for those of us who still find some usefulness to them, our patronage should not been seen as passing fancy but rather solid patrons that now have more choices than ever and its very evident that many are making that choice very clear. Here's a salute to all those bars long gone as we prepare to see MK's fade to black this Friday.

Save the Date for Southern WOW goes Supernova!

In honor of National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, March 10, the group Southern WoW ( Women on Women) will recognize the day with a March 8th event featuring an array of speakers on topics directly targeting women's issues from faith based to women's reproductive rights. For more information call 379-8203 or check out their Facebook page for updates. The event is Free!


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