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BARFLY: Gay bar stands proud in CBD

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    BARFLY: Gay bar stands proud in CBD - 13-Jan-2007
    YOU'VE gotta laugh. Just a few months ago, the downstairs bar on Victoria St was named 6 Feet Under, and was largely populated by heavy metal fans and skinhead wannabes big on Motorhead.

    Now you're more likely to run in to a 6-foot-tall drag queen with an outstanding set of fake breasts; it's called Venom and is Hamilton's newest gay bar.

    It's also the first to stand proud in the middle of Barsville at the south end of town.

    No shrinking violets here.

    On Saturday night, Mr Gay Waikato was wearing his sash over his bare torso as he shook his booty around the outside area.

    Being below street level, the area - only about 3sq m - attracts plenty of stares from the mostly straight passers-by, and the odd one or two pop in to check the place out.

    It's worth it. The bar itself has been extended right to the front of the building, giving smokers a nice spot to lean on the window sill and check out what's going on inside.

    The decor - understandably different from the coffin lids and industrial grey colours of its previous incarnation - is glam. A massive mirror hangs on the black right-hand wall, and one of the managers - a former banker brought up from Wellington for his 20 years' experience in the industry - says later in the night, the punters will be lined up in front of it checking out their appearance and touching up their hairdos.

    Several large pot plants prevent them getting right up close to the mirror.

    Beside those, a glass fronted partition holds several glittering mirror balls, and effectively marks out the dance floor on the other side.

    It's an interesting touch for them to have included a shiny steel pole in the middle of the dance floor.

    Several flags adorn the other walls.

    The owners - a mix of Hamiltonians and Aucklanders - did most of the work themselves, transforming the bar from heavy metal to disco balls, and they've done a good job of it.

    There's still a pool table in there, and a DJ booth in the back corner.

    The music is stereotypically gay, fast-paced techno tunes. The DJ spends his time before taking to the decks shooting a few pool balls and hugging new arrivals.

    Behind the bar, a couple of exuberant barmen serve up drinks with style and a smile.

    The beers are the usual suspects and icy cold in bottles. Spirits aplenty line the wall behind the bar and a few of them - notably the Jagermeister and the Aguavero tequila liqueur - are stored in the chillers.

    The toilets are much the same as they always were, but rather than flyers for Dime Bag Darrell tribute concerts the walls now have posters promoting safe sex.

    Venom has been open since mid-December and despite the expected downturn over the holidays, it's been going exceptionally well, the barman tells Barfly. As with most gay bars, it's a late-happening place and at 10.30pm there are only half a dozen punters in.

    The crowd grows quite quickly though and showed no signs of slowing down late into the night.

    By the time the big drag queen arrived it was almost busy inside and she/he was sure to attract more. She was a stunner in tight jeans and made up to the nines. More drag queens arrived as Barfly was finishing his last Stella, and it looked like a good night was in the offing.

    Of course gay bars are not the sole domain of people who are gay, and an uneducated guess put at least some of the punters into the heterosexual camp - but everyone, whatever their inclination, gets treated the same and everyone has a good time.

    Just like they should in any good bar.

    In a word: Gay.

    Best feature: The pole in the dance floor.

    House specialty: Pride.

    Loos: Provide all the safe sex info you could ever need, and some. Venom, 161 Victoria St, Hamilton
    Ref: - Waikato Times

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