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Urge makes tough decision to close

Sun 30 Nov 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

1.00am: The owners of Auckland scene stalwart Urge Bar have announced to patrons that it will close in three months' time. It was an emotional night at Urge. Pictures thanks to Andrea. The revelation came from Paul Heard at the K' Rd institution's 17th birthday celebrations last night (Saturday night). The mood in the bar turned sombre, with disbelief from the crowd gathered when the announcement came at the stroke of midnight. Some had seen it coming, but others didn’t and were shocked Heard received lots of hugs afterwards. The bar will close at the end of its lease in late February. Urge is New Zealand's longest-running gay bar and chiefly caters to the bear and leather crowd. It was originally co-founded by the late Peter Taylor. Co-owners Paul Heard and Alan Granville say big increases in rent, insurance and even music rights have made the small venue's future unviable. They admit they are desperately disappointed to be forced to call time, but want customers to know it was a tough decision to make. “We cannot seem to increase the turnover to a level to sustain the bar's outgoings,” Heard says. “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.” Heard says they used to pay $157 a year for music rights, and it is now $2,400. He says insurances which were around $5,000, are now $21,000. “Our staff have been incredible over the years, we could not have done it without them," he says. Earlier in the year the bar staved off a big bill from its landlords thanks to a rally from the community, and from supporters around the world. “The outpouring of support then was incredible,” Granville says. “It showed how much love there is for the bar.” A big three months is promised, as the bar goes out with a bang. “We have DJs lining up from overseas wanting to play for the final time at the bar,” Granville says. “We have something pretty much every weekend in the lead-up to the close. Christmas and New Year are traditionally huge for us and hosting the Get it On! Bear New Zealand Week in February will take on even more importance. “We have also registered the names Urge and Urge Black so we will continue to do dance parties around the country. This isn't the last you have seen of us.” Heard is urging the community to get behind all the events and make the months memorable in Auckland's gay history. “Thank you all for all you help, support and friendship over the years,” he says. The closure of Urge will leave Auckland with just one gay nightclub in Family Bar, gay-friendly pub Eagle, drag cabaret bar and restaurant Caluzzi and gay-run wine bar and lounge Shanghai Lil's, plus a handful of bar/cafes such as Marcello's, Alleluyah and Garnet Station. Men's sex on site venues in the inner city include Centurian sauna, Lateshift cruise club and the Grinder back room. There has been a recent worldwide trend of lgbti venues closing, which is being attributed to a range of reasons, from less need due to easy internet hook-ups, ‘gentrification' pricing some businesses out and less demand for community spaces as being gay becomes more integrated into mainstream culture.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Sunday, 30th November 2014 - 1:00am

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