Comment: Why LGBT nightlife is not dying – by a nightclub owner

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Mathew Causon, owner of a string of gay clubs and bars including the OMG brand, provides PinkNews with his unique perspective on the supposed death of the gay scene.

Recent reports suggest that the “gay scene” is facing extinction. While I agree that red tape surrounding night time economies is a real issue, I have seen the complete opposite of a “gaypocalypse”.

I run a string of bars under the OMG umbrella brand and having opened four sites in the last five years – as far as I am concerned – we have never had it so good in the nightclub industry.

First of all, let me talk about clubbing in general. The only thing that has really changed in the last decade is our competitors. Years ago, your average night club would be competing with the club next door – club A would try to outdo club B and vice versa.

Today, our true competitors are the supermarkets and social media.

We will never be able to beat the supermarket pricing structure when it comes to alcohol, as the government are too chicken to bring in a decent “minimum price”, which could then allow bars and clubs to compete. Nor will we ever be able to offer the social power of the likes of Facebook. This means the public do not use clubs for drinking and socialising as much as they did in the past – because it’s cheaper and easier to do so at home.

Put simply; a nightclub’s primary use has changed – we now sell experiences, as much as we do alcohol.

People go out for the excitement and to experience a release from their everyday lives.

They want to feel like they are living a “fantasy” from the moment they walk into a venue. I’ve built a successful business on the back of the LGBT community, not because I am interested in how much we sell our drinks for – I focus instead on every aspect of our customers experience, from meeting the door staff, right through to leaving.

And I’m definitely not interested in what the club next door is doing.

We are so strict with our experience that we even made the controversial decision to remove all of our DJ’s and instead, stream our music live to all venues, with a preselected set chosen by head office.

This alone has given us an increase in footfall and I believe OMG is the first UK chain to have made a decision such as this. It has also proven that DJ’s aren’t as important nowadays as they were ten years ago – but that’s a different discussion altogether.
Gay scenes and gay clubs are destroying themselves.
We need to stop whinging that “gays can go anywhere nowadays”.

That’s right – gay people can go anywhere. They don’t have to go to your clubs any more, you have to make them choose your venue.

Historically gay venues have had it easy – they were famous for their good atmosphere and we had far less competition.

However, nowadays, the LGBT community expect the same standards that they can get on the straight market.

Clubbers are not going to go to horrible, old, gay bars or clubs any more – you need to invest back into your venue. The years of people having to spend their time and money in your venue have gone – now it is time for the club owner to spend some if your own money so that gay people choose your venue over the straight scene.

You are always going to sacrifice your “experience” if you’re selling cheap house spirits and canned larger, whilst playing the numbers game by letting absolutely everyone in and turning your back on the LGBT community. If you want to make a quick buck whilst making gay people feel uncomfortable, you’re definitely going to end up closing.

Stand by your local LGBT community and screen who you let in – yes, straights are more than welcome – but gay clubs belong to gay people and their safety and experience has to come first.

If you look like the type not to respect that at one of my clubs, then you won’t even be given the chance to get in.

We have been going for around five years and the OMG brand alone has opened in more cities than any other gay brand – and we have done this during these hard times.

The same cannot be said for other gay venues within the industry.

Unfortunately, the clubs that try to compete with their straight counterparts are the clubs that are closing down.

Stand by your gay community and they will stand by you.