Are Gays Actually Loving the Recession?


PARTY ON — We just got done sharing with you an in-depth look at how gay businesses are faring in this recession. But what about Individual Gay Persons? Anecdotal evidence suggests un- or under-employed fags are tearing things up while the rest of the country is in a fetal position. Could it be true? Is Wall Street’s collapse a perfect excuse to party?

Be forewarned: The evidence exists inside the bubble of New York City, which doesn’t make things true for what’s happening in Pheonix, Cincinnati, or Texarkana (your editor’s personal favorite city in the south). Reveals the New York Observer:

“Given the news about the economy that came out of the late summer and fall, when we were in November, I was saying that all of us have to hope for a mild winter,” said Bob Pontarelli, the longtime co-owner of Chelsea gay bar Barracuda and of the very gay-friendly Elmo restaurant on Seventh Avenue. “I was anticipating a perfect storm of cold weather and the economy. And then we had a worse winter than we’ve had in five years. So it’s been very, very, very cold and add to that the recession. But you know what? We haven’t been affected by a percentage point. In some places, we’re doing better. What I was worried about actually hasn’t happened, and it hasn’t affected us.”

According to some of his patrons, the downturn has, if anything, redirected their budgets to Going Out.

“I mean, we’ll skip going out to dinner and go out for drinks instead now,” said Christian, a 27-year-old in fashion PR, to his 27-year-old friend Jon at Barracuda on Friday night.

They both agreed, emphatically, that giving up on their night on the Crawl, whether it be on Eighth Avenue or Avenue A, was not an option.

Michael Formika Jones has been promoting gay-themed parties and nightclub evenings for 18 years in New York, but has found himself without much to do over the last three years.

“Oh I’m loving the recession!” he said. “I’m jumping on this recession bandwagon. I haven’t done a big party. Period. In three years.”

But in the next eight weeks, he’s booked three big events. One of them is at 55 Gansevoort, a two-floor restaurant and a loft apartment above it, as well as a basement bar. It’s always been one of those straight, bottle-service type clubs on weekends before.

“Buh-bye to that!” Mr. Jones chirped. “No more $15 drinks!”

He’ll be opening it up for a Saturday party.

“My take on all of this is after the crackdown with the Giuliani era, it affected the way nightlife was run. A lot of venues had to take the bridge-and-tunnel tourist dollar on Saturday night,” he said. “Now in recession big venues are losing weekend business, so they’re opening up their weekend business to promoters for stuff that wasn’t open to the gays before.”

Which is true — our own conversations with nightlife promoters and venue owners suggests uber-trendy places once fearful of having their establishments branded with a “gay” party are now more than willing to accept pink dollars.


And adding to the potential for partying? Even the cops might leave us alone:

The day Lehman Brothers fell, the downtown-demimonde nightlife promoter Chi Chi Valenti, the genius behind such New York legends as Night of a Thousand Stevies and Click+Drag, wrote a note to her message board.

“If there’s one part of this week’s economic implosion that sure smells like a silver lining from here, it is the prospect of we New Yorkers finally getting a few of our clubs and downtown streets back,” she wrote. “Some of New York’s most enduring clubs have been born in dark financial times indeed, from the Mudd Club during New York City’s near-bankrupcy [sic] to our own Jackie 60 during the LAST Bush Presidency/Recession. High commercial rents were among the prime villains that drove creative clubs and nights virtually OUT of Manhattan in the last five years, and hopefully a poorer city government will no longer have the resources to spend on venue harassment. Throw in almost certain Cabaret Law reform, and a sense of impending doom. Can a new Golden Age in clubs be far behind?”

During better times, Michael Formika Jones said, “they’ll fine you for everything. Booty on the bar. Having candles lit. Being overcapacity by 10 people. Not having paper towels behind the bars. If you’re a busy gay club, you’re getting fined for every little thing so should shut you down. But they’ve got other things to worry about. This is good times for us!”

But all this raving about using the economy as rationale to drop cash on going out may not tell the whole story. Namely: Gays are just as susceptible to sinking themselves into debt for a good time as anyone else.

Around this time, the people running the door at Cake Shop wouldn’t allow any more people in—the basement had reached capacity. Near the bathroom, 24-year-old Max Steele, a hipster with a mop of red curly hair who was stripped down to nothing but a pair of black briefs, was waiting in an impossible line.

“Gays love a recession because we hate the capitalist economy that’s found in the hetero-normative patriarchy anyways,” said the young man, a law-firm drone by day and a performer and go-go dancer by night. “I say burn the motherfucker down! Right? Fuck Prop 8! Who gives a fuck? We should burn down Wall Street and take over New York.”

He took a sobering breath.

“Gays are the only people with dispensable money—dispensable income or whatever?” he said, telling us he was a Sarah Lawrence grad. “Well, not for me personally.”

So we wondered what he was doing out.

“I’m like $60,000 in debt from school,” he said. “I’m fucked anyway.”

Photos: Jackie Factory and Gayborhood Gringo