Gay bars in Ireland feeling pinch in recession as attitudes change


Several gay bars have been closing around Ireland in the past few months due to the economic recession and more liberal attitudes about homosexuality in the general population.

Sean Mullen, the owner of the gay bar Dignity in Waterford, which also markets itself to straight couples and hosts bachelorette parties, believes the era of gay only bars is coming to a close.

“I think the days of actual gay bars are dying out,” Mullen told the Sunday Times. “Things are not the way they were 10 or 20 years ago, when gay people didn’t feel they could be affectionate with each other in regular bars. Now I think you can do that.”

With the recession sees mainstream venues hosting more gay nights to fill seats and dancefloors, and the growth of location-based social networking apps aimed at gay daters, such as Grindr, the need for gay bars is becoming obsolete.

Mullen opened a franchise gay nightclub called Dignity West on Galway's Shop Street but it shut down last May after two years. He opened Dignity 2, Kilkenny's first gay bar, in 2009 but that bar closed in 2010.

Mullen went from employing 40 people in his franchise to now just nine people in the Dignity Waterford location.

“The gay community does come in but I couldn’t survive in business with just them so we’re marketing towards the straight community an awful lot,” he said.

“We still fly the rainbow flag and run gay events but we have to keep our heads above water. You can’t say the gay community hasn’t been affected by the recession — they’ve had to take pay cuts too.”

In Dublin, The Wilde Venue on Wicklow Street opened in August but is already "rebranding" itself as a "straight" bar and will change its name next month.

Brian Finnegan, the editor of Gay Community News, told the Sunday Times that he believes the newer clubs in the Dublin market are struggling to compete with industry stalwarts such as the George, which opened its doors nearly a decade before homosexuality was decriminalized.

“Go to the George on a Wednesday night and it is jammed, where other bars in the city would be empty,” Finnegan said. “That’s because they lived through good times and bad times and found their place before the recession hit.”