When word got out that Parliament Street’s much loved Front Lounge was under new management and, notionally anyway, “going straight” there was an understandable outcry from The Capital’s LGBTQ community. There’s a certain irony to the outrage as the Front Lounge fell arse-backwards into its lofty position within the scene. First coming to prominence as a gay venue in the mid 90s following the closure of, gay bar, The Parliament (now The Turk’s Head). With the bouncers of The Parliament’s replacement implementing a less than enlightened door policy, as was shamefully commonplace at the time, the LGBTQ clientele simply elected to move down a few doors and try their luck in another newly opened bar – The Front Lounge. And lo, just like that, a venerable institution was born.
The rumour mill went into overdrive in weeks that followed the announced refurbishment. The air panic intensifying and eventually peaking with the suggestion that premises would house, potentially the straightest business I can think of, a Reggae themed bar. The speculation was so intense that the new owners had no choice but to come out and address the burning issues: 1) Bad news, natty crown’d wailers – You’re gonna have to stir it up elsewhere and 2) The Front Lounge, rechristened “Street 66”, had no intention of distancing itself from the LGBTQ community who remain valued and welcome customers.
On first impression, they appear to be true to their word – the telly in the corner is still showing The Birdcage on loop and Erasure’s A Little Respect played within 10 minutes of our crossing the door. So, aside from the employing of the invariably eye-roll inducing “word+numeral=cool name” algorithm, all’s well that ends well, right? Em…sort of.
Street 66 is divided into two distinct areas; a wholly unremarkable, leather booth lined hindquarters functioning as a “Disco Lounge” and a more laid back “Dive Bar” up at the front (both sets of quotation marks the management’s own). The Dive Bar area is a beacon of up-cycled chic, designed to cater to the elevated tastes of post craft beer Dublin. Translation: Street art. All the seats are different sizes and most pints will run you more than six quid.
These sins are, of course, not punishable by death and the atmosphere is markedly more convivial that many of their Temple Bar neighbours. Yet, I couldn’t help but recall a conversation I had with a friend considerably more immersed in the city’s queer scene than I. She posited that, well meaning as this age of inclusivity is, it has brought with it an homogenisation of gay culture – a dilution of what made the scene special for the perceived benefit of those outside it. The identikit nature of Street 66’s look, as wilfully inoffensive as it is, can’t help but serve as a tragic emblem of this state of affairs. It’s grand but one feels the dedicated clientele deserve better than that.
Street 66, 33-34 Parliament Street Dublin 2.
Words Danny Wilson
Photos Killian Broderick