The end of the gay bar

Stefan from SNLWhile I love Boston, you’d have to be from a very small town to be impressed by the gay nightlife.  Something I’ve heard from older gay men is that in the 1970s & 80s Boston had a great gay nightlife so what led to the decline that started in the 1990s and seemed to fast forward in the first decade of the new century?

Will gay bars become as scarce as LGBT bookstores?

Some attribute the decline to the public’s acceptance of homosexuality.   Others point to online sites where guys can connect. However, I tend to believe it is society’s general acceptance.  There are many gay Bostonians who lament the closing of gay clubs and bars, but the phenomenon is hardly unique to Boston. Out Magazine’s recent post The End of the Gay Bar is more about how clubs in Philadelphia’s suburbs are closing but the story is the same throughout the US. The quick read is interesting and I’d be curious to get your thoughts.

6 responses to “The end of the gay bar

  1. As gays gain more acceptance, there really isn’t as much of a need for gay bars. Are they really more for picking people up than just hanging out with your friends? But even before Grindr’s prevalence I was already meeting more guys online than in person.


  2. Great post Rob! It is sad but true. I did a post a long time ago on all the Boston gay bars that have closed over the years. It’s a pretty extensive list and now could probably have many more additions since I did that post some time ago.


  3. Boston used to be so chock-full of gay bars but most of them closed due to poor management or the owners sold the buildings to other interests. I think we’re left basically with Club Cafe (not a bar I EVER frequent, I’m too old and fat LOL), Machine and Fritz. Fritz does a KILLER brunch on Sundays!!!


  4. PS – separate is N E V E R equal.


  5. I believe it is a mixing bowl of reasons that there are not more gay/lesbian/TG bars. I will out myself as you describe as an older gay man.

    The bars were really the only “safe outlet” to socialize in the late 60s, the 70s, the 80s and really into the beginning of the 90’s while technology caught up. I remember the day where in Bay Windows I would respond to personal ads – and even placed a few myself. Via that avenue I was not looking for the equivalent of a / hook-up – I was looking for something more indept.

    I also worked for many years as a bartender at the Playland Cafe (21 Essex Street). Playland was a mish-mosh of people.

    Most of the pretentious queens would always say they would “never” go to PL.

    Yet, I served almost all of them time and time over. PL was a place of no judgement, basically because of the population it attracted – back in the late 70s and 80s it was the older crowds who really just wanted to go out and have a few pops with friends. There of course was “trade” in the bar. Every bar has it to this day – the bars can pretend that they do not – but give five minuets in a club with you and I can identify the tricks. No harm in those connections – they have just moved onto different platforms as technology advances.

    Sunday afternoons were grand at all the clubs – mainly because we mostly held stereoptical jobs like hair burners (hair dressers / barbers);dog grooming businesses owners; actors; musicians and waiters (this again was in the day where many / most of these businesses did not open on Mondays but were in full swing on Saturdays).

    It has always amazed me that Boston does not have more gay / lesbian bars – especially with a very large student base and progressive and inclusive adult population. But the bar scene has been shrinking for about 30 years, the most disturbing trend is the one day a week club scene, personally if you only want my money one day a week – you will not see me at all.

    Another overarching factor is driving after drinking – I am proud that it seems that many take that to heart and choose to not go “in town” for a night out if they are going to have to drive themselves home.

    Like all of society the gay community has expanded out into and deeply in the suburbs. And there is not that much – thank G-d – push back from the greater society when expressions of love are given.

    Just two weeks ago I was at the coach grill in Sudbury.

    There was a very nice couple seated next to us. The gaydar went off and I made some small chat with them – table to table.

    When one of the gents got up to use the restroom the other man just looked at me and began to speak about how nervous he was and showed me an engagement ring.

    It was wonderful to witness their tears of joy – and the restaurant staff responded with an impromptu cake (we sent over a bottle of bubbly).

    We made two new friends that evening – and that is a great thing.

    We are all out there and we are everywhere.

    There is a sense of security with a club / bar that is deemed homosexual – but more and more that sense of security is expanding by leaps and bounds.

    Let us jump together into the next phase of life being lived in equality.


  6. What a sad commentary that the locations we can meet each other face to face are being replaced by the anonymity of sites Grindr and Scruff. For me, I will take real people, with real faces, and real personalities and real conversations.



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