On January 2 was the last possibility to visit the oldest leather bar in Europe, the Argos. It is now closed down.
The bar started its existence at 22 Warmoesstraat in 1957 as a guesthouse. From meetings at the kitchen table, the hotel developed into a gathering place for men who like a raw image and rough sex.
It is in the basement of this guesthouse that Europe’s first darkroom was born. The Argo then moved to the small street Heintje Hoeksteeg (also in the Red Light District), in 1965.
In 1979 it moved to its last location at 95 Warmoesstraat.
There the Argos experienced its wild days, its most successful period. (In)famous were the times that the mean-looking (but oh so friendly) leather-clad men flocked (and blocked!) the Warmoesstraat – causing a big scare to many tourists – leaving them puzzled …. What on earth are these scary men doing here??
Especially on busy days like Queen’s Day, the street would be completely blocked. Cars could hardly pass, and might even be climbed by the bolder men – upsetting the poor driver and passengers…..
The Argos was a liberating experience for many kinky gay men in Amsterdam and far beyond. Here you could walk around naked – and nobody would say anything. Or a master could beat his slave, and others would join. Or you could organize your own golden shower. Anything and everything was possible, and not frowned upon.
Of course, the main attraction was the darkroom in the basement – if the archeologists are ever to dig in this basement, they won’t believe what they find.
But, alas, those days are gone.
In the past decade, the number of visitors went down gradually, making the bar economically unfeasible. In 2010 there was a brave attempt by leather shop RoB (which had also moved to Warmoesstraat) to re-invigorate the Argos. The entire bar was redecorated and the darkroom basement got a very good make-over.
However, the number of visitors kept going down, and now the Argos is closed definitely.
We can only speculate about the reasons why the visitors stayed away. Is it the dating sites on the internet? Have leather, rubber and other kinky gear gone out of fashion? Did an entire generation die out because of Aids? The smoking prohibition in bars? The prohibtion to drink outside the bar?
We don’t know exactly – we only know that the forums on internet are loaded with texts about ‘good memories’ of the old days. Nice things, but they don’t make money.
It is sad to see an institution go!
(We moved the Argos to our Graveyard Page.)