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Thursday 09 October 2008


Welcome to my gay utopia

Posted in: Community
By Mark Farnworth - 2nd June 2008

mark-farnworth.jpg
Imagining paradise: Mark Farnworth
Some time ago I was asked to write about my ideal bar. Where would it be? What would I provide? Who could come in? So I've spent a while considering the problems of setting up a bar, the business models, profits and clientele.

Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that any bar I created would be a terrible failure and sink without a trace into the over-stocked graveyard of gay bars in Auckland. Mainly because I would run it as a meritocratic establishment, no doubt driving it into the ground from the first opening of the doors. However, given that I can have flights of fancy for free, I decided to write about my ideal bar anyway.

THE LOOK

Firstly, it would have to be behind a rather unassuming door, no garish signs, no people spilling onto the street, no audible loud music. Much like Doctor Who's TARDIS. It would be a bland and everyday place on the outside, but deceptive, able to transport you through time (not literally) and in stark contrast to the plain, and likely black, door through which you gain entrance.

Inside it would be well lit, a seeming faux pas for the night dwelling denizens of gay Auckland, and clean. People would be able to converse and look at one another without having to squint or shout above the music. I'd probably have a working (and well tuned) piano in one corner, in front of book shelves, full of books that patrons were actually able to read, not those terrible fake spines for that pseudo-intellectual look. There would be plenty of tables and chairs that could be pushed aside (or raised into the ceiling) to make way for a modest dance floor, because everyone likes a dance.

The walls would have art on them, and I don't mean a print of van Gogh's Sunflowers screwed into the wall for fear that some scrubber is going to half-inch it. Good art, the kind that you talk about when you see it. No plush or red velvet either, just glass and steel, an almost clinical space that is softened and contrasted by the people, the music and the conversation.

In many regards this concept is a twist on the "Gentlemen's' Club" of yesteryear or a pre-evening drinks venue. Not a place for rutting and staggering about, we already have those. I think about times when "likeminded" people had to congregate in certain bars, where free-thought and discussion were encouraged and political discourse was not greeted with a yawn and an askance look. It's all frightfully romantic I know, probably way off the mark too, but then this is my bar and my fanciful concept. Of course there's nothing clandestine about it, people are free to be who they want to be, although a police raid or two would be interesting.

THE VIBE

So who could come in? As I said, it would be unashamedly meritocratic; it would start with entry allowed for my friends and their friends. You wouldn't have to be rich or intelligent or well-dressed but you would have to be interesting (as, of course, all my friends are) and interesting doesn't mean able to wank-on about what you've done that's "so great". Age and beauty would be immaterial. Heterosexuals allowed, but under the same rules (which they would find harder to fulfil). People would be able to be nominated onto a guest list (a bit like a gay Northern Club, but without the posturing and nauseatingly boring kudos) and would then be let in through the door, much like the guarded doors you see in vampire movies. Inside pretty much anything would be permitted (illegalities, like homosexuality in the armed forces, on a "don't ask don't tell" policy) as long as it was done with flair. You could get drunk and smash something as long as you'd been on an Absinthe fuelled bender, recounting tales of green faeries and the like. Out the door you would go if you'd simply drunk 10 cans of Tui and abused a K-road regular before wending your way over. There would be a capacity limit, likely to be around 50 people, just to make sure that the atmosphere remains one of conviviality.

Drinks would be served at cost, or, if a licence wasn't available, people would pay corkage and simply drink their own alcohol. Alternatively alcohol could be free for a modest annual fee. Seeing as this is where most money comes from you'll note that I'm already going out of business. But then it's not really a bar is it? Similar to my local back home patrons would be known by name and those that are regular would have their own stein, highball, schooner, cocktail glass or whatever. A bottle of your favourite drink would be kept aside for you, similar to the traditional sake bars of Japan.

So, no doubt to many, this sounds like a Dickensian version of hell, an elitist crap-fest spewed forth by a pseudo-intellectual. But then, if that's how you feel you wouldn't want to come along. To me it's a utopian environment where you can converse openly and meet people through introduction without being eyed suspiciously. You can network and meander through the evening, meet up, move apart, dance, sing, anything you want, because this bar is run for the patrons by the patrons. No cynical exploitation of the gay dollar here.

As for the name? Well, it simply wouldn't have one, so that it could gracefully retire to its unmarked grave when the people failed to come. That way it would disappear into the annals of gay Auckland history without potential for defamation or, worse, resurrection. I'm just thankful that I'm not rich. If I were I would no doubt bankrupt myself and offend people simultaneously.

What's your idea for an ideal gay bar or nightclub? Let us know on GayNZ.com/forum. The only limit is your imagination…


 
Mark Farnworth - 2nd June 2008