Straights have gay old time at nightclub

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 07/04/2012

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Christchurch's sole gay nightclub is being "swamped by straights".

Before the earthquakes, Cruz in Lichfield St attracted gays, lesbians, bisexuals and drag queens. But owner Bruce Williamson said that in the new Victoria St premises, people had to be a bit more careful "running up to a guy and grabbing him by the butt".

The small bar, opposite Christchurch Casino, was packed every weekend, and the gay, lesbian and bisexual scene had become "a lot more diluted", he said.

Cruz, which transforms into the Procope Coffee House during the day, is one of Christchurch's few nightclubs, after Club 22 in Papanui closed two weeks ago.

It has been struggling to accommodate the fresh demand, and there was a queue of more than 60 people outside last Saturday night.

Williamson has been running gay bars in Christchurch since the early 1980s, but this was the first club he had operated that was "embarrassingly busy".

He thought the mix of sexualities was just a sign of "the times", but the bar was a lot more "flamboyant" before the February 2011 quake.

"If you had walked in the door in 2003, it would have been more obvious you were in a gay bar," he said.

"Boys would have been running around with their shirts off, drag queens would have been dancing and everything would have been a bit more in your face.

"We have huge rainbow flags in the windows. Everyone knows we are still a gay bar.

"The crowd is more mixed because we are just moving with the times and society is more accepting now."

Kieth Hilton has been partying at Cruz since it opened in 2003 and still goes to the club four times a week.

He preferred the old Cruz, but "it's fun looking at all the cute straight boys that come into the bar".

Hilton said the gay community was "happy to accommodate all the straights", but a few issues had emerged with the new crowd. "If a gay man hitches on to a nice-looking guy, they can't be sure if he is gay or not, so they are afraid they could get shoved away.

"They are no longer in their own environment."

He said the club was a "novelty" to heterosexuals, but the gay community would call for their own bar again when the city was rebuilt.

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- The Press

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