It’s been barely a month since gay megaclub Angel opened its doors, and now they’re already threatened with closure.
Ricky Lü, owner of the club, tells Shanghaiist over 40 complaints have been sent to the cultural bureau, the fire department, the public security bureau, the district government and the municipal government.
The litany of complaints attacked the club from various angles, as part of what Lü believes to be a part of a coordinated campaign he believes to have originated from competitors.
The most vicious complaints that sounded the death knell for the club were those alleging that pornographic activities were taking place in the club. These were accompanied by pictures of dance performances and shirtless men dancing on the stage — sexy? yes. pornographic? hardly.
The club held its soft opening in June after receiving its “environmental license”. Lü says it’s common practice for bars to begin operations after getting this license while applying for all the other required licenses. Which makes sense to us — as anyone who has been in business in China will tell you, licenses can take forever to approve here. Lü has been in the business since 2002 when he opened his first club Home&Bar (later PinkHome), which was for years the most popular gay club in town.
Unfortunately, the application for all the other necessary licenses have ground to a halt now. Officials in touch with Club Angel told the proprietors that the Xuhui District government would not allow the existence of a gay bar on the Hengshan Road strip.
Without the required licenses, Club Angel has been forced to halt operations for now. In the meanwhile, the owners plan to assemble all the video and photo evidence they can put together to show the relevant departments that their patrons are, like club goers anywhere else, just there to drink, party and have a good time.
If negotiations fail, Club Angel will go down in the books as the shortest surviving gay club in Shanghai’s homo history and its owners will exit the business forever.
Gay clubs have not had it easy in Shanghai lately. Last year, Shanghai Studio was threatened with a shutdown in Changning District because its patrons were allegedly disturbing residents in the neighbourhood and having sex in the bushes. It is still in business today.
Another bar hasn’t been so lucky. Q Bar has been out of business following a raid in April by police in the Huangpu District acting on a tipoff on supposed sex shows going on within the bar. Back then, news reports also cited unnamed eyewitnesses who said patrons were having sex on the roof. The owner of the bar has been sitting in a jail cell since then, deprived of access to lawyers, and hasn’t even been put on trial.
If Shanghai is to realise its outsized ambitions of becoming a truly global city, then authorities in this town need to stop harrassing decent people trying to run an honest business, and start operating within the boundaries of the law themselves.
Read all about gay China here.