The gays have been invading large cities for decades, building communities, teaching straight people how to dress better, and inventing new dance moves at the club (which helped replace the dreaded lawnmower and wave). As the gay communities grew larger in bigger cities, we have seen new neighborhoods (or gayborhoods rather) pop up all around the United States. From Boystown, basically all of San Francisco and then back to Midtown gays have taken over. Some publications have said a whopping one in four people in Atlanta are part of the LGBT community, higher then any other city in the country.
With such a strong community though why does our nightlife consistently fall short of other cities? Where are our 24-hour dance clubs, higher end bottle service lounges, and multi floor gay clubs? While Metro Atlanta touts an impressive number of gay bars (almost 30), people around Atlanta have been buzzing about wanting something new and different, yet they are unable to support the nightlife scene we already have. How can we bring in new and better if we can’t support the great places we have already?
If you know anybody in the gay community in Atlanta, or have lived here in the past 5 years you are very familiar with people saying, “One time at Backstreet…” Backstreet was the gay nightlife destination complete with 24 hour pouring, three floors, shows, and lots of trouble and memories. The city played a large hand in making sure Backstreet was removed for high-rise condos, and while a few contenders have tried to capture the same ultra club spirit (WetBar being our closest competitor), nothing has yet to capture the magic.
While Backstreet is the perfect example of what we need again in Atlanta, its not the only gay bar to ever see troubled times. 3-Legged Cowboy, an Atlanta staple, shuttered its doors again earlier this year (and has now partnered up temporarily with The Heretic). My Sisters Room, who is about to celebrate 15 years, is no stranger either to venue change and temporary closures. While we are glad that both places are still around, it goes to show how people can take our nightlife for granted. We have said goodbye to several more, including one of Atlanta’s hidden gems Stage Door, who closed this past year.
Some people have said we need a centralized area where all the bars are together, instead of being so spread out. This is true, the bar scene in Atlanta is very spread out and multiple venue changes can be difficult (especially with our lack of great public transportation). However, realistically, how many times does one person change venues in a night? While Atlanta would benefit from a Boystown type of area, it’s not a solution in the near future.
Is Social Media Killing the Nightlife Scene?
Let’s face it, many people would go out pre-2005 to have a few drinks, meet a hot guy in the back room, and invite him back to the crash pad for “another drink and a slumber party”. While most of you probably weren’t painting your tricks nails and doing his hair, the Atlanta nightlife scene gave you an opportunity to meet other people for casual fun. Of course not everybody was looking for the one night stand, and many used the more social bars as a way to meet guys to date. Without these venues many people would have been cut off from gay society, and they knew these ultra-clubs and dive bars gave them a place to find a community, especially if you were just coming out or new to the area.
However, now we live in the age of instant gratification. Feeling depressed? Upload some photo on Facebook for 20 comments about how “Sexxxy” you are. Feeling horny? Get on Grindr to locate the hottest guy that’s within 400 feet of you (by the way, 400 feet is too far to travel for some of these boys). Want to engage in idol chat, log into your Manhunt account to see how many men you can string along for conversation. We have learned that the bars are not the place we need to go anymore for casual sex and dating, and instead we can do that from the checkout line at Walmart if we please.
I feel my solutions will be best placed in an open letter:
“Dear LGBT community:
While many of you are aware that the American Eagle in Atlantic Station has shuttered, have the Armani Exchange sale schedules posted on your iPad’s calendar, and are fully aware that Rachael, Finn, and Kurt will now be back for Season 4 of Glee, you may not realize that the nightlife scene in Atlanta is quickly evaporating. If we want more events, more parties, and opportunities for a bigger nightlife scene to rival the rest of the south, we need to rally together and make a few changes.
- 1. Support Local Neighborhood Bars: While we all have our favorite places to meet and hang out, lets not forget we probably have great local bars in our own backyard that we haven’t visited in a long time. While leather may not be your fetish, stop in and have a drink anyways. You may learn you have either a hidden fetish, or a love for darts and pool that you never knew about.
- 2. Organize Groups: Having a group of people to go out with not only lets you meet friends of friends, become a social butterfly, and a chance to finally stop crying about that 2-week relationship you had, but also cuts that taxi fare into a very marginal cost. Sometimes the larger groups can lead to #gayboyissues, but a little drama never hurt anybody… and the fun outweighs everything else.
- 3. Get Offline: While we love our Grindr, Manhunt, Adam4Adam, Match.com, Facebook, Scruff, Recon, and other social/dating/fetish/sex websites we have to cut back. Not only is it turning us into socially awkward sex zombies, but also it’s ruining the social element of when we go out to the bars. Yes, I will take the pledge to cut back on these also. For what its worth boys it’s really sad when you message somebody on Grindr, while you are in the same bar, instead of coming and saying hi. Get with the program.
- 4. Bottle Service: Believe it or not, there are a lot of us who would pay for it. Talk to your favorite nightclub and see if they can’t arrange a special VIP section for you. If more people asked for it, we would see more VIP rooms added to our favorite clubs.
- 5. Support Local Promoters: Any given night in Atlanta there is a great event going on from karaoke to a big circuit party (check out our Datebook). While nobody can go out every night, pick one event to go and support. You deserve to let some steam off by having fun, and it helps promoters continue to bring bigger and better talent to Atlanta. Want to see a certain DJ or performer? Just let the club and organizer know, your input really helps bring artists to Atlanta.
- 6. Annoy City Government Officials: If we want longer pouring hours and lighter restrictions on the bars, we have to let our city officials know. While we all agree that they hold the power, most people have never picked up the phone to call their local elected officials. While small victories have been made here and there, its really sad that the small town in Alabama has 24 hour pouring laws when Atlanta has regressed from nightlife freedom into regulations. Fight back!
To get Atlanta to bigger ultra clubs like the former Backstreet, we have to support and grow the bars we have right now. Personally I think the bars can do a few things to help grow their business also – non-smoking would be a plus (and seems to be the trend among some of the newer bars in ATL). Also the bar owners could look into a transportation bus that drives people to and from different bars (remember the shot bus from Blakes & Wet Bar?). Small improvements will help bring people back out, but it’s our responsibility to build our own Boystown and bring our business back into the bars. If business owners see how we take care of our current toys, and they will give us new and shiny ones to play with down the road.