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Memories of Urge

Tue 2 Dec 2014 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

New Zealander's longest-running gay bar, Urge, is to close at the end of February. Michael Stevens has been a patron since it opened. He reflects on why the little K' Rd bar has come to be so loved, and why it will be so missed. Michael Stevens at Urge's 17th birthday party. Pictures thanks to Andrea. I can remember all the buzz around Urge opening 17 years ago. Finally Auckland was getting a real men’s bar, with a back room, somewhere free of drag, for men only, and where we could just go and have a beer and maybe hot sweaty backroom fun like we did in the same sort of bars overseas. I’d been a regular patron of the Mineshaft while living in New York in the 80s so I had high hopes – Urge never quite took off as a backroom bar in that way, but it did become a community centre, a place where a lot of men who don’t feel a close affinity to the mainstream gay scene felt comfortable, first the Leather guys, then the Bears as demographics and tastes changed. The bar’s reputation always seemed a bit darker and riskier than it really was. You’d talk to men who’d never been and they’d be “Oh I’m scared I’ll get thrown in a sling if I walk in the door” – they wished! It’s not unusual for bars to open and close, I’m not sure I can list all the gay bars in Auckland that have come and gone in my time. None have lasted this long though. And the world is different today. Bars like Urge everywhere are facing similar problems and closing down, and the way we do things online has certainly played a role in that. The fact Urge has stayed open for so long points to the way it fostered a real community. And first Larry and then Paul and Alan deserve real praise for this. From the leather crowd in the early days to the Bears more recently, Urge has given gay men a space where we can simply be ourselves. And that little bar has raised a vast amount of money in its time and given back to the general Rainbow community in spades. It was always controversial for some but one of the great things about it has been the fact that it’s men only. Sure we’ve all had a few female friends in at times, but it’s been a very clearly first and foremost a space for men. The porn playing, the space for men to have sex in the back, sometimes guys having sex on the dance floor, the smell of amyl in the air, all of this made it pretty clear this was for men who were into men. And most women didn’t want to stay too long after they saw the loos, especially if troughman was lying there relaxing. I’ve made some wonderful friends through Urge, had some fantastic nights on the dance-floor and boy do I have some memories – but I was told to keep this printable so I won’t go into them. Looking around the packed out bar on Saturday night I thought “Where will all these men go? What can we do?” and I don’t know the answer. Maybe the time of having one distinct physical space for us is over. Urge will still exist as an entertainment brand, throwing parties around town and across the country – so perhaps that is what we will have to get by with. I’m getting older though, and big parties have lost their allure. Even though I haven’t been going out as often as I used to, I’m going to miss this bar. I’ll miss the space itself, the atmosphere it has, but most of all, I’ll miss the people. I’ll miss the sense of walking into a room where even if I don’t know or like everyone there, I’m pretty sure we’re on a similar wavelength. I’ll miss the chance to easily hang out with my tribe – that’s what I’ll miss the most. Urge will close at the end of February. Michael Stevens - 2nd December 2014    

Credit: Michael Stevens

First published: Tuesday, 2nd December 2014 - 7:28am

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