Something has changed in the gay and lesbian scene. It’s not a strictly new phenomenon -“ some say it’s been this way for years -“ but it seems increasingly apparent that Sunday is the biggest night out of the week.
Traditionally the day of rest, Sunday has emerged as the night in which gay and lesbian Sydney collectively gets its kit on and heads out to socialise. It’s become a night of high spirits and action, with an array of venues from which to choose. In short, Sunday has become the new Saturday.
While established venues such as Arq, the Midnight Shift and Middle Bar continue to pull good crowds of a Sunday, three pubs in the Darlinghurst area have, over the past year, all seen a surge in gay and lesbian patronage.
Interestingly, none of the pubs are identified as gay or lesbian, and none of them are on the strip. They are the Green Park, the Palace and the Lord Roberts Hotels.
Sundays at the Green Park have been building in popularity since last summer, says bar manager Eoghan Kearney.
The Green Park has always had a good Sunday, Kearney says. But we never set out to make Sunday a gay night. It just kind of happened.
Kearney thinks the pub’s location -“ off the strip but still in the precinct -“ has helped bring in a crowd who are perhaps a bit tired of the scene and who are looking for a local, no-attitude pub.
The word-of-mouth has done wonders for the Green Park, as it has for the new gay Sunday night at the Palace, called Mate’s Best Friend [MBF].
Promoter Brett Kyle explains that he and a group of mates were driven to set up MBF three months ago after becoming frustrated by the lack of gay nights around town.
Basically there was nothing happening in the scene on a Sunday at all, except for the Oxford, he says. We were sitting around talking, thinking, -˜Where the hell has everybody gone?’
Sunday night revellers seem to appreciate having off-strip venues to go to, Kyle says, adding that Oxford Street has become not the nicest place to go to because of the amount of verbal abuse being thrown at gay men and lesbians.
MBF attracts a fairly laid-back group, Kyle says. It’s not a young, girlie crowd. It’s blokey and slightly older, but still mixed. There’s definitely no attitude, he says.
A similar ethos prevails at the Sunday do at the Lord Roberts, called Better House and Beer Gardens, although here the emphasis is more on the music rather than sitting back with a few cold ones.
The music is definitely not real commercial. It’s funky and a bit alternative, says bar manager Jodie Pendel. It starts off loungey but by the end of the night everyone’s dancing wherever they want to.
Better House and Beer Gardens celebrates its first birthday this Sunday, with an impressive line-up of local DJs doing the record honours, including Steve Allkins, Annabelle Gaspar and Ben Drayton.
Pendel concurs with other theories about why gay and lesbian Sydneysiders might seek their end-of-weekend fun away from Oxford Street, but adds her own.
People are tending away from the strip because of the prices, she says. Pubs are proving to be popular because beers and spirits are generally cheaper than they are in many of the more established venues, she adds.
Whatever reasons there are for the shift to Sunday events and the attraction to venues far from the madding crowd on Oxford Street, the phenomenon is not likely to end quickly. Another Sunday-night venture, Luxe (at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel), launched just three weeks ago, and the run-up to summer will doubtless see the popping-up of more gay and lesbian pub nights and parties.
But hospitality can be a volatile industry and lesbians and gay men can be notoriously fickle when it comes to choosing a watering hole. Who’s to say what will be adopted long-term and what will prove to be just a passing trend?
Eoghan Kearney from the Green Park appreciates the score.
One day somebody could say, -˜The Green Park is so five minutes ago, we’re all going to go to venue X,’ he says. We’re aware of that. But we’ll do everything we can to keep the crowd.