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New Menfriends rises from Christchurch rubble

Thu 20 Dec 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News

The nautical exterior of the new Menfriends Christchurch sauna and cruise club Menfriends has reopened 22 months after the first, devastating earthquake struck the region. At a gathering of around 40 friends, colleagues, tradesmen and members of the community last night co-owner Stuart Yeatman described the quake as a “kick in the teeth” and that the only silver lining had turned out to be the building that has been transformed into the new Menfriends. In a short speech Yeatman praised the “bloody marvelous” support of trades people from both within and external to the gay communities of Christchurch. He also warmly thanked the support of staff and friends new and old. There had been some “big hiccups” that delayed the opening of the building, said Yeatman, but after 11 months of work it was now time for the new Menfriends to go into “operational mode.” Yeatman and McKelvie Staff, all from the original Lichfield Street location, wore distinctive blue shirts and conducted tours of the premises, dispensed drinks and circulated with delicious snacks. There were almost as many women as men in attendance including the Mothers of both Yeatman and his business and life partner John McKelvey. McKelvey acknowledges that both mums being there might surprise some, but says both women have been “very supportive” throughout Menfriends history. The spacious venue, situated between Black’s Pet Emporium and Powertool Sales and Repairs at the Philipstown end of Tuam Street, has a slightly nautical look to it. This is explained by its original purpose – a Dive School. But as Yeatman explained to his guests what “started as a shell” has been transformed into a classy venue the covers two levels. The staff are back The ground floor houses the “Altsexcafé”, a sophisticated sex shop that caters to the tastes of (mostly) gay and bisexual men, the sauna, steam room, spa pool, video room and a large lounge. Beyond the pool table emblazoned with a “Love Your Condom” logo there is a reproduction of British artist Banksy’s stencil of two policemen in uniform kissing passionately. Upstairs every inch of space has been utilized with numerous cubicles, glory holes and nooks, two sling rooms, an orgy room, and a second theatre. As the hour of the official opening of the venue to the gay public approached the lights dimmed and the invited guests start to leave. By 7.30 a queue had formed from the entrance from the street to the counter as the first customers waited to collect towels and their locker keys, auguring well for a re-start for one of Christchurch's pivotal gay community venues. You can discuss this New Zealand gay community news story in the Forum.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 20th December 2012 - 8:47pm

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