Nightclubs come out with gay-friendly gigs

Just when it looked as if the patrons of Partners had all paired up and the Batmen and Robins of Gotham Citi had stopped flying solo, recently opened “alternative nights” at various New Haven nightclubs have increased options for local gay club-hoppers.

A year after members of the on-campus LGBT community began protesting against Toad’s Place for hosting allegedly homophobic artists, LGBT students said they are excited that local club offerings catering to the their community are increasing. But some LGBT students said the increased marketing toward a gay demographic is double-edged — while it offers gay people more destinations that cater to their tastes, club owners may be more interested in increasing profit margins than seeking to include the LGBT community for altruistic reasons.

Gay couples are an increasingly common sight at local nightclubs like Hula Hanks as they host more LGBT events.
Christopher Young
Gay couples are an increasingly common sight at local nightclubs like Hula Hanks as they host more LGBT events.

Last month, Hula Hanks on Crown Street decided to open its doors every Wednesday night to the LGBT community, turning itself into “The Lagoon” for five hours of discounted drinks, drag performances and special giveaways. The Lagoon also features a table sponsored by AIDS Project New Haven with free condoms, lube and information on sexually transmitted infections.

“Overall, we are trying to offer an alternative to the existing gay scene in New Haven,” Lagoon coordinator Adam Rapczynski said

In addition to Hula Hanks, local nightclubs Oracle and BAR offer alternative nights. There are also two Elm City nightclubs that cater primarily to LGBT clientele — Partners and Gotham Citi. Nikita Gale ’07, coordinator of PRISM, a minority-focused LGBT organization, said nightclubs are integral to LGBT life.

“Nightclubs have always been one of the only places for gay people to have the opportunity to go out and meet each other in a fun social environment,” Gale said. “I’m not a huge fan of the campiness of some of the alternative nights in New Haven, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.”

Executive Director of the Town Green Special Services District Scott Healy said he thinks gay nights are profitable for many Elm City nightclubs because the city and the Greater New Haven region have a vibrant gay community that tends to go out often. Though two gay nightclubs already exist in the city, he said there is a high demand for more events catering to the LGBT clientele.

“Either there is a club seeing an opportunity because there is a large untapped market on that night, or [the nightclubs] are trying to animate a night when it wasn’t working,” Healy said. “The gay marketplace is remarkably loyal to places that do a good job marketing to them.”

But Anna Wipfler ’09, coordinator of the LGBT Co-op, said she had some reservations about expanded nightclub options for the gay community because the trend is largely motivated by self-interest.

“I am glad to see more nightclubs developing alternative nights,” she said, “despite the implications that trend carries about appreciating queer people [or] patrons only because of their growing economic power.

She also said the changes could reinforce a notion of sexual identification that could ultimately be divisive.

The owner of a New Haven club that has been the target of a boycott by Yale’s Queer Political Action Acommittee, Toad’s Place, said it has a 20-year history of inviting artists from the queer community to hold concerts, including a recent show by lesbian artist Melissa Ferrick.

“We do shows that appeal to the gay community,” Phelps said. “If shows of this nature come around, I book them if it makes economic sense.”

Toad’s currently has no weekly “alternative night,” though it did host an event targeted to the gay community in May. The turnout was low, a result that Wipfler attributed to QPAC’s ongoing stance against the club.

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