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New Zealand’s longest-running gay bar announces its closure

New Zealand’s longest-running gay bar announces its closure

Urge in Auckland – which recently celebrated its 17th birthday – will be closing in the New Year.

According to stuff.co.nz, owner Paul Heard described the decision to close the venue as the ‘toughest day I’ve had’.

Heard bought the bar ten years ago with his business partner, Alan Granville. The two were formerly romantic partners, having met at the venue.

‘We actually met at Urge and bought it when the owner was in bad health so we could save it.’

Heard believes that the way that many gay people now meet one another has greatly affected the potential for some gay venues to turn a profit.

‘People’s ability to communicate on a one-to-one basis has changed. I get guys in the bar sitting on their phone chatting to somebody on the other side – the app says they’re zero metres away.

‘Winter is our worst time for customers. Years ago it didn’t seem to bother them but now they can stay at home and find someone who will come to their door, literally.’

Heard told gaynz.com that escalating costs had also impacted in the business, saying that the bar used to pay $157 a year for music rights, and it was now $2,400. He says insurance payments that had been around $5,000 were now $21,000.

‘We cannot seem to increase the turnover to a level to sustain the bar’s outgoings.

‘As you know alcohol prices in supermarkets have stayed the same or less even over the past nine years, so we cannot increase prices to cover even part of the increases.’

Urge, which has primarily catered for the bear and leather crowd, will continue trading for the next couple of months, with a closing party planned for 21 February 2015.

The commercial gay scene has been hit hard by the rise of internet dating and smartphone apps, while in many larger cities, escalating property prices and rents have also taken their toll.

GSN recently reported on the forthcoming closure of one of London’s most popular gay bars, while the owner of San Francisco’s most well-known lesbian venue, The Lexington Club, recently announced that it would be closing in the New Year.

Gay travel guide publisher Damron says that it has seen huge drop in the number of US LGBT bars and clubs in its database – from 1,605 in 2005 to 1,056 in 2014: a 34% decrease in just under a decade.

Urge is the ninth gay bar to close in Auckland in the past two years.