Best Hong Kong LGBT hangouts of yesteryear


Arthur Tam takes us down memory lane and remembers the fun times at the best Hong Kong LGBT hangouts of yesteryear

High food and beverage turnovers are nothing new in Hong Kong. Keeping up with the rapidly changing consumer cultures and egregious rent increases poses aching challenges for restaurants, clubs and bars – especially when it comes to establishments that focus on a niche market like the LGBT community.

In the past two decades more than a dozen LGBT bars, cafés and clubs have disappeared from the city – particularly from the gay and lesbian bar and club hub which is Central – and, this year, two more bit the dust. In the summer, the glitzy and spacious mainstay Psychic Jack – formerly Works Bar – which secured a prime location overlooking the busy intersection of Wyndham and Glenealy, bid farewell to its patrons after 22 years of joyous memories. And, just three months after that closure, bad news struck again when chic bar Déjà Vu shut its doors with an all-you-can-drink bonanza, bringing its four-year stint to booze-fuelled end. Many men bid a teary farewell to their favourite hangout spot.

Now, all that’s left in Central are three gay bars – T:ME, Zoo and Volume Beat – plus the unwavering gay club, Propaganda, co-owned by Steven Hui (who also co-owned Psychic Jack), who says he’d open a new spot in Central ‘if there’s a good location with reasonable rent’. However, until then, let’s take a moment to remember the gay and lesbian bars of the past across the whole of Hong Kong with those people who frequented – nay, loved – these venues…

H20 1990-2002
H20 was one of the most popular lesbian karaoke bars of the 90s, sporting a cosy and intimate setting just off Jaffe Road in Causeway Bay. “It was the first place that I ever experienced a drag queen show,” says Connie Chan of the Women’s Coalition of Hong Kong. “Both gays and lesbians kept it crowded well into the wee hours. And it was the 90s when it was not easy to find a place mixed with gays and lesbians. I always had friends there.”

DYMK 2008-2010
DYMK – or Does Your Mother Know – was a sleek and airy two-level space just off Central’s Arbuthnot Road which was packed to the rafters during weekends. Upstairs provided a space for patrons to have conversations while the basement floor got dirty and raunchy. “There was a small platform for the boys to get crazy on,” says former general manager Paul Murphy. “The great thing about DYMK was that it wasn’t pretentious. It was a relaxed atmosphere. I met so many interesting people there.”

M Bar 2006-2007
A short-lived space that provided a quaint setting for a hip and happening young crowd, M Bar on On Wo Lane in Central was a much-loved spot for a matter of months. “I miss its tasteful décor, great drinks, nice people and good music,” says gay activist Billy Leung. “It was a friendly neighbourhood bar where I met a lot of people who have since become my friends. I particularly miss that small bench they put outside on the patio. Not because I smoke but because it was just a cute bench that added to the overall bar experience. Too bad it had to go so soon.”

Rice Bar 1999-2010
Rice was a tasteful little hangout off Jervois Street in Sheung Wan way before the gentrification process of the past couple of years began. “I miss the old Rice Bar – the way it was when it first opened,” says chairman of the Pink Alliance, Reggie Ho. “At the time, Sheung Wan had nothing other than print shops and little Chinese eateries, so going there was a special experience, like going to the underground scene. The décor was unique – there was rice under the glass surface of the illuminated bar counter and many of the bartenders took their tops off.”

Thirty-Seven Plus 2008-2011
It doesn’t get more hidden than Thirty-Seven Plus off Central’s Staunton Street. The place had no signs and was a secret little gem for a predominantly gay crowd who were in the know. “It was located in a rat alley and was so secretive,” recalls Betty Grisoni, co-founder of lesbian party night Les Peches. “The perfect place for after-work drinks or pre-clubbing drinks. Sadly Hong Kong’s great bars and clubs come and go too quickly.”


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