Gay street gay no more

Reguliersdwarsstraat, a Friday evening
Reguliersdwarsstraat, a Friday evening

Reguliersdwarsstraat has been the gay street in Amsterdam for about 30 years. Many gay men have fond memories of having a drink in bars like Havanna, April, Taboo, Arc or Soho, dancing in Exit or Nyx or having a bite at Downtown. Many of these bars have gone, but many still consider this cosy street with the difficult name as the heart of the Amsterdam gay scene.

Many, but not the business owners in Reguliersdwarsstraat. This week Amsterdam was rocked on it’s foundations by the news that the business association of Reguliersdwarsstraat is going to change the profile of the street: they are not going to advertise themselves as a gay venue anymore.

Official arguments

The official pr speak of the business association is that it still wants to be a street of exuberant partying, but not for ” the dancing, drinking masses”. That’s why they won’t organise a street party at Europride. Another reason is, that organizing the party is too costly and time consuming for the local business. And with the street full of people having a fun time, the restaurants in the street miss out on clients and can’t resupply their stock. It seems that these businesses aren’t doing too well.

The official reactions in the gay scene are more muted and trying to give it a positive spin. Siep de Haan, organizer of past Gay Prides and ambassador of Gay Pride 2015, is quoted in the local paper Het Parool as saying “It is the ultimate form of gay liberation. We always wanted it [Gay Pride] to be a non-exclusive party, where straights are welcome and see how gay people party. Appartenly Gay Pride has been successful in that.” Other gay officials re-iterated that point of view. They emphasize that young gay men and women often party together with their straight friends, making separate gay street parties less urgent.

Gay street loss mourned

gay street
Reguliersdwarsstraat Pride street party in better days

It will be the for the first time since the start of Gaypride in Amsterdam, that you won’t be able to join a party in the street. Past parties were often legendary with performances of stars like Kylie Minogue. The reactions in Amsterdam have been strong in several media. It is like hearing that the Canal Street in Manchester or Castro in San Francisco are no longer the epicenters of the local gay scenes.

Unofficial reactions were therefore stronger worded. People point out that Reguliersdwarsstraat has a history of being a gay meeting point going back to the mid 19th century. Others point out the still prevalent violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people in Amsterdam. And why not organise a party to show that we are not going back in the closet? In other streets, with also only one or a few gay bars the business owners are more liberal and entrepreneurial by organizing Pride street parties.

Real reasons, real alternatives

We think the businesses and their association in Reguliersdwarsstraat are not doing well and losing their plot. They have ambitious plans to recreate the street into a Secret Village, but the launch party has already been postponed because “the plants were not blooming due to the cold weather”. And the website of this Secret Village is no more than a cheap bill board for the local businesses. And the idea of a Secret Village seems a little bit strange in a street which connects a main shopping street with a tourist attraction and a major party square.

We advise you to either support the the many gay business with balls like Prik, Reality, Eagle or the bars around the Amstel or on the Zeedijk who invest in street parties at Europride. Or maybe organise a flash mob in Reguliersdwarstraat during Europride? After all a party is as fabulous as the people who visit it.