Feb 6, 2011

[Pink Culture] Should Dance Clubs Be Non-Smoking?

I don't smoke. Never have and probably never will given my asthma. And yet I have to admit that there's a certain allure to the practice amid all the bad smoke. Maybe that's just years of media programming speaking through me with the classic image that "smoking is cool", or maybe it is a personal preference that I'll never be able to explain.

Flickr: feastoffun.com - Hunters Gay Nightclub in Elk Grove, the suburbs of Chicago
Hunters Gay Nightclub in Elk Grove, the suburbs of Chicago
by Fausto Fernos / feastoffun.com via Flickr.


When I started hitting the local LGBT club scene in 2003, smoking was very much a part of it. The old BED Malate was a very small fraction of the sprawling complex of sorts that it is now and was a firetrap given the tight spaces and narrow entry and exit points. And yet it was a heck of a lot of fun despite the sweltering heat, lack of personal space and a lot of smoke everywhere. I guess something clicked during those years and the concept of a bar allowing smoking became part of the image in my head.

And so it was terribly ironic when I chanced upon a tweet the other week that had one guy describing BED as "a non-smoking bar in Malate", which isn't necessarily 100% accurate since they have a smoking area at the rooftop. But still, the notion just made me want to laugh - BED is now a non-smoking bar! For the most part, this statement is indeed true given BED's post-fire renovation. (And no, the fire was not related to cigarettes).

But as you look around and really think about this sort of thing, there may be more to this whole reasoning. Why do I feel so strongly about the right to smoke in a dance club when (1) I don't smoke, (2) smoke drives my asthma nuts and (3) all the usual health reasons? I don't think I'll come to a final answer within this post, but feel free to come along for the ride as I try to analyze all this.

For disclosure purposes, I have yet to go to the new BED myself as of the writing of this entry. That's not really integral to the post, but I just wanted to make sure I get that out there. I'm more of an O Bar person these days with my limited club time divided between Ortigas and Malate with a bit of preference to Ortigas due to its proximity to QC.

Places like O Bar (whether Ortigas or Malate) still allow patrons to smoke inside the bar and so does Butterfly bar, if I'm not mistaken. The new BED is probably the most known bar to adopt a generally non-smoking rule, something I haven't seen in play since the Club Government days. At the very least, BED has opted for the rooftop as a smoking venue instead of that glass gas chamber that Government used to have.

Flickr: Nemo's great uncle - When did smoking become part of us? #2254
When did smoking become part of us? #2254
by Nemo's great uncle via Flickr.


Now I'm not saying that smoking is directly tied to how we should define gay culture or even club culture. I recognize the health risks being asthmatic and I intimately understand all the little problems with being around smokers including secondhand smoke, the so-called "thirdhand smoke" that clings to your clothes and your skin and the other side effects such as bad breath, yellowing teeth and all that jazz.

But on a more personal note, I have to admit that there's a certain amount of sexiness, vulgarity and downright seediness that comes with a club that smokes. I guess at times I still feel like the whole LGBT club scene still feels somewhat illicit given how the whole pink culture aspect is not fully accepted across the board. We still have religious conservatives who look down on us and people who start when we show the slightest part of our homosexual natures in public. And so certain vices tend to go with the club scene and that includes drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol (beware blue drinks!) and inevitably smoking. Some would argue for drug use but I think that's going a bit too far right there beyond the basic fact that it's illegal.

Flickr: reallyboring - Downtown Bar & Lounge
Downtown Bar & Lounge
by Eric Allix Rogers / reallyboring via Flickr.


The notion of a non-smoking bar generates images of sterility in my mind, which is not the kind of mindset I want to have in a bar. Most people go to the club to meet other guys and grind somewhat obscenely with some stranger they didn't know less than two hours ago. We ogle shirtless go-go dancers, laugh at drag queens lip-syncing and dancing like there's no tomorrow and maybe even cop a feel of some cute guy with a great ass. None of this is meant to be clean or sterile - it's a gay dance club and not some prim and proper soiree where we discuss the weather over tea and biscuits!

So I guess you can say that I like my bars dirty to some extent (and for lack of a better term). And it's harder to have something dirtier than smoking at times (har har) which at the same time can be sort of attractive, at least visually. And I know that's a silly media-influenced statement to say, but then it's my blog so I get to make a fool of myself this way.

I guess in some ways I feel that the right to smoke in a bar still needs to be respected for as long as we allow smoking in general to remain a legal practice. If people are really against smokers, then get some legislation down that bans it entirely! But since it is legal, then we should allow for it to happen in the same way that a lot of LGBT principles are centered around our right to live our lives as we choose, our right to express ourselves and our general rights of equal treatment as human beings.

Flickr: twinkleboi - No Fags // 30-8-2008
No Fags // 30-8-2008
by Toby Dylan / twinkleboi via Flickr.


So I guess in a really weird way, the right to smoke in a gay dance club or bar is sort of a constant reminder of all of us getting to live our lives as we choose to. It's all about the freedom to be who we really are and at times looking pretty "cool" while doing it too. besides, it's hard to be a bitch without a cigarette in hand, methinks. Unless you're willing to throw your drink into someone's face with the proper dramatic timing, hehe.

So this is why I still go to bars that allow patrons to smoke on the dance floor (and pretty much everywhere else). Yes, it means I end up needing a puff of my inhaler for luck before I head in and stuff, but it still completes the overall image of the gay club scene for me. So feel free to smoke in my company in case you bump into me in a bar - just try not to burn me or smoke directly into my face, which is a different matter entirely.
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