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Dear GPS: AlbuQUEERque

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Photo: Courtesy New Mexico Tourism
Story by Josh Ivey

We love receiving insider tips from our readers, so don't hesitate to send us yours. Here’s one from Josh Ivey about the unfortunate demise of Albuquerque's gay nightlife:

"The rise and fall of gay nightlife in the Duke City

It was the fall of 2005. As reward for an entire month of avoiding alcohol -- no easy task in my then-home of Milwaukee, dubbed by Forbes Magazine as the drunkest city in America -- I took myself on vacation to Albuquerque, a city whose beauty and culture had always intrigued me. Mere hours after stepping off of the plane, I found myself lasciviously sandwiched in between two shirtless boys on the dance floor of Pulse, a thriving gay club downtown. I was later invited to an afterparty by a group of friendly strangers, and left the scene of the crime quietly the next morning, wondering to myself where my own shirt had disappeared to as the cab took me back to my hotel

Fast forward three years. Yes, three years exactly. The clock had run out for me in Milwaukee -- another frozen, torturous, Midwest winter approached, and I was not about to wait around for its blustery arrival. Bags packed, I headed into the sun, both figuratively and literally, to start anew in Phoenix. The 2,000 mile trip required me to choose stopping points that were at least tolerable and, with luck, maybe even enjoyable. Needless to say, my previous experience in Albuquerque made its appearance on the list an absolute must.

Arriving on a Saturday night, I was ready to dance. I was ready to drink. I was ready to get out of the damn car after an eight hour ride through the heartland. As had been my practice throughout the five day road trip, I flipped on my laptop and signed onto Gay.com while I unpacked, certain that the city’s residents could point me in the right direction. My hotel was close to where Pulse was located, but, you know, in three years, things change.

They certainly do.


Photo: Courtesy New Mexico Tourism
Story by Josh Ivey

We love receiving insider tips from our readers, so don't hesitate to send us yours. Here’s one from Josh Ivey about the unfortunate demise of Albuquerque's gay nightlife:

"The rise and fall of gay nightlife in the Duke City

It was the fall of 2005. As reward for an entire month of avoiding alcohol -- no easy task in my then-home of Milwaukee, dubbed by Forbes Magazine as the drunkest city in America -- I took myself on vacation to Albuquerque, a city whose beauty and culture had always intrigued me. Mere hours after stepping off of the plane, I found myself lasciviously sandwiched in between two shirtless boys on the dance floor of Pulse, a thriving gay club downtown. I was later invited to an afterparty by a group of friendly strangers, and left the scene of the crime quietly the next morning, wondering to myself where my own shirt had disappeared to as the cab took me back to my hotel

Fast forward three years. Yes, three years exactly. The clock had run out for me in Milwaukee -- another frozen, torturous, Midwest winter approached, and I was not about to wait around for its blustery arrival. Bags packed, I headed into the sun, both figuratively and literally, to start anew in Phoenix. The 2,000 mile trip required me to choose stopping points that were at least tolerable and, with luck, maybe even enjoyable. Needless to say, my previous experience in Albuquerque made its appearance on the list an absolute must.

Arriving on a Saturday night, I was ready to dance. I was ready to drink. I was ready to get out of the damn car after an eight hour ride through the heartland. As had been my practice throughout the five day road trip, I flipped on my laptop and signed onto Gay.com while I unpacked, certain that the city’s residents could point me in the right direction. My hotel was close to where Pulse was located, but, you know, in three years, things change.

They certainly do.

In conversation after conversation, I was informed of the complete and total demise of Albuquerque’s gay scene. Pulse had closed in December, 2007 -- depending on who you ask, either because it lost much of its customer base to a new club, District, or because it lost its beverage license due to incidents of serving minors. I would presume a bit of truth in both explanations. Ok then, point me in the way of District -- a place that had been described by one gay travel website as "the city's hottest gay clubbing destination [with] some of the best DJ action and a great sound system." Alright, I’m pumped! Well, no. See, it also closed, disappearing this summer, just months after opening.

Now, to be fair, gay (and straight) bars & clubs are known for their short life spans in numerous cities, small and large. Competition is fierce and ever present. We, the bar hopping public, are partly to blame, always wanting to be a part of the newest thing. But this was not an issue of establishment preference. No one wanted Pulse to close. No one was happy to see District shut its doors. So what happened? An extinction that has not been witnessed since the days of the dinosaurs.

In addition to the closings of these two clubs, gay establishments Albuquerque Mining Company, Empire, Foxes, Martini Grille, and Club 7, which hosted an alternative night, all stopped pouring drinks. Pride Gym closed. The VOICE stopped publication. "The bar closings are a combo of personal rivalries, bad management and law violations," says one scene insider.

So, what’s left? Gaybars.com notes only one alternative bar remaining in Albuquerque, and in the entire state for that matter -- Sidewinders. This is, however, miles from the convenience of downtown, and caters to a specific crowd: predominantly older men who enjoy the country western scene. Others point to Exhale, a lesbian bar, or the Albuquerque Social Club, a private club which requires membership. What it all boils down to: In a city of over 500,000 residents, in a city that is home to the University of New Mexico, there are simply no real options for alternative nightlife.

What does the future hold for gay life in Albuquerque? "There have been other attempts at getting gay nights started at other bars like Lotus, Raw, Olive, etc." says one source. "Nothing has really taken off." Though, he says with cautious hope, "Ralli's Downtown will start hosting Wednesday and Saturday gay nights, so let's hope that works out well."

Yes, let’s hope so."

- Josh Ivey

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