Editor’s Note: This Op/Ed piece comes from Cameron Parker
I’d rather go to a bar in Shockoe Slip than go to a downtown gay bar any night of the week. Not all of the LGBT community feels the same way, though. That’s not to say that self-segregation is a regular practice in the community; for the most part, Richmond’s minority groups are all very adept to being involved in many of the various nightlife scenes in my estimation. Nevertheless, there’s still a certain curiosity as to why typical non-niche bars often fail to attract gay customers, and why gay bars may seem too exclusive for a heterosexual patronage.
Why should straight bars try to reel in the gays? Well, for several reasons. Although the Richmond bar scene is already pretty progressive, it seems to be timidly so. When Richmonders feel comfortable in their drinking environment, word spreads like wildfire and people flock to those bars. By showing a commitment to minority groups with a roar rather than a whisper, local establishments will speak volumes of their commitment to inclusivity.
Beyond social justifications, there are very clear monetary motivations to reach out to the gay community. Some studies suggest that the levels of alcohol consumption among members of the LGBT community may be significantly higher than those among heterosexuals. Accordingly, appealing to a gay clientele could have an evident bright economic incentive for local establishments.
The socioeconomic determinants being clear, I feel that we, the LGBT community, should task Richmond bar establishments with being more vocal about their support for gays as an integral part of nightlife. It seems to be nothing but a mutually beneficial idea: the gay community will feel comfortable enough to expand its horizons, and the bar community will benefit from a more comprehensive image.
Cameron Parker is one of the creators of OMGWTFRVA.net where he shares thoughts on nightlife and other Richmond happenings.