Gay Bars Disappear, Public Space Suffers

The disappearance of gay bars in the Boston area signals a change in the city's character and the vibrancy of it's public space. In this piece, Robert David Sullivan argues the change is bad for everyone in the city, gay and straight.

"In all, there were 16 gay bars in Boston and Cambridge, according to Pink Pages directories from 1993 and 1994."

"Today, that number has been cut to less than half. None of the bars I've mentioned are still in business, and most of the city's seven remaining gay-every-night bars have sparse customers for most of the week. (Lesbian bars were never numerous to begin with.) The gay population may have political clout and the right to marry in Massachusetts, but it has fewer and fewer public spaces to call its own."

"The disappearance of places like Buddies and Chaps may sound like a problem limited to gay men, but it is part of a much larger trend reshaping American cities. As gay bars vanish, so go bookstores, diners, and all kinds of spaces that once allowed 'blissful public congregation,' as sociologist Ray Oldenburg described their function in his 1989 book 'The Great Good Place.'"

"This change is a serious challenge to the city, which has historically been defined by the breadth and variety of its street-level experience - and the wide diversity of people it threw together. 'City air makes free,' a saying that dates to medieval times, was a favorite of urban-studies pioneer Jane Jacobs. But as a wide range of gay bars dwindles to a handful of survivors - and the city's diners, indie bookstores, and dive bars yield to high rents and shifting patterns of commerce - that air is becoming the province of an increasingly narrow set of people."

Full Story: Last call

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