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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christchurch's glbt "heart ripped out"

Glbt venue owners around the country are expressing sympathy for the owners and staff of Christchurch's devastated venues, which one terms "the heart of Christchurch's glbt communities."

Cruz nightclub has been crushed and is "closed for good" according to co-owner Bruce Williamson. Stuart Yeatman of Menfrends cruise club and sauna says there is massive damage to his venue, co-owned with his life partner John McKelvie, and it is "hard to see it reopening."

"That's the physical heart of Christchurch's gay community ripped out," says Malcolm Vaughan of Wellington's S&M bar. "It's appalling... what's the community going to do to come together now... perhaps someone can find a space where glbt folks can come together.. but..." His voice trails off. "We just hope that all our glbt friends in Christchurch are getting through ok."

"They have my deepest concern, all of them," says Liam Slater of Auckland's Centurian sauna, who is still waiting to hear if family members in the city are ok. "It must have been such a shock to the owners and to the staff and now of course the personal consequences are going to be immense." Slater says he "wishes them all the best as they try to come to terms with this catastrophe."

Urge bar co-owner Alan Granville says he is "stunned, can't believe it has happened like this!" He says his "heart goes out to everyone, including the city's glbt people." The hospitality industry is "always difficult," says Granville, " and I really really feel for them."

Jay Bennie of Auckland's Lateshift says he has known Yeatman and McKelvie for many years and counts them as good friends. "They have great integrity and drive and have been so good for the city's glbt community... but the September earthquake knocked them personally and I could feel a mood of deep resignation when I spoke briefly with Stuart this afternoon. I hope they and Bruce and Tony of Cruz have the energy to recover... but who knows what the future will bring."

Bennie, who grew up in Christchurch, says he feels deeply for the staff and customers of the venues who "must all be facing such personal stress and anxiety."


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