Price Of The Pump!
Facebook message blasts go out across the social network earlier this month announcing the move of Bank & Vault’s Pump! Thursdays to a new night – Wednesday. Less than a week later, another message goes out announcing the event has moved to a completely different venue and another night. Godfrey’s. Saturday.
According to show hostess Heaven-Leigh Kennedy, the move came from management. The nights reportedly were garnering 100 to 150 people an evening before the move to Wednesdays, which would put Bank & Vault in competition with Godfrey’s longstanding College Hump Night.
While many straight-owned establishments make a dedicated effort to create an inclusive space for all clientele, Godfrey’s co-owner Brian Thomas expressed concern that this one was about the money.
Thomas owns Godfrey’s with business partner Mark Collins. As a bar owner, Thomas said seeing a straight business go after the gay dollar is tough to watch.
“It’s sort of sad to see that they can have some sort of success and our gay population is so fickle they bounce around,” Thomas said. ”Ultimately, they see it for what it is and end up coming back.”
“We’ve seen Aurora do the same thing. We have our Sunday night crowd and they tried to start a gay night. It hurts us a little bit… They don’t care about your lifestyle and we’re here all the time. We’re supporting our community and you’re going to give your money to someone who doesn’t.”
“This was a perfect match,” Thomas said. ”The crowd – it’s our scene. It’s what we do. It could be successful for both [us and the Pump cast] to show the crowd and gay scene what improvements are being made at Godfrey’s and what we’re doing to appeal to them.”
With years in Richmond’s gay nightlife scene under his belt including bartending at Christopher’s and The Pyramid, Willis has seen straight bars go for the gay demographic before, adding that straight venues that host “gay nights” are, more often than not, absent from community events and fundraisers.
“Let’s face it, the baby boomers have coupled up or tragically been lost to AIDS,” Collins said. ”Now, in what could arguably be said to be a more accepting social environment in which gays & straight people co-habitate, we have less folks frequenting the gay bars.”
With a less stigmatized younger generation heavily reliant on apps, social networking, and dating sites to meet people, where does that leave the traditionally gay venue?
“There are fewer of us baby boomers now and the way we interact has changed. The way we hang out with each other and where we go has changed a lot. Particularly in Richmond. We don’t have a huge single gay population, or at least one that goes out to bars.”
Put together, Collins said, gays don’t have much of a reason to go to the gay club anymore.
“Without support, gay bars will not be able to continue to compete and make the improvements everyone wants. I think everyone likes to have a place to call their own, where they can be accepted for who they are without having to feel like they are being tolerated for the sake of a dollar or feel they have to censor themselves.”
“Ultimately, society isn’t completely accepting of our lifestyle – yet – and you’re going to want to come back to someplace familiar, comfortable, and supportive until that happens,” he says.
“That may not be possible if things continue as thay have.”
Pump! is Saturday nights at Godfrey’s, 306 E. Grace St. 18+ Photo courtesy of Scott DiMarino.
What is your take? How do you feel when a “straight” bar hosts a gay night?
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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