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10 Aug 2011

Curtain comes down on Shanghai gay club before official opening

Club Angel, said to be the largest gay club in Shanghai which opened its doors in June, announced that it will be closed temporarily until further notice due to licensing issues and complaints alleging that pornographic activities were taking place in the club.

An exciting megaclub in downtown Shanghai promised to be different when it held its soft opening in June. Club Angel was featured in the Time Out Shanghai magazine and its popularity also spread quickly via word-of-mouth. A boys’ club being discussed among the gay girls means one thing – even the women want to elbow their way past the swarm of sweaty bodies in a nightspot surely to be jammed packed with mostly men. 

In the thick of the buzz, the 800-square-metre club at Wulumuqi, near Hengshan Road, announced it would be closed temporarily from July 28 until further notice. 

Owner Ricky Lu, who is behind the now-defunct Pinkhome club, told Fridae he was in discussions with the authorities over licensing issues and hopes the club may re-open in a month. The bar had received an “environmental license” and still needed to navigate around other rule and regulations, he said, without elaborating.

“Soft” launches are mysterious periods of time when friends and old-patrons come by because licenses are not fully granted or an establishment has not passed food and safety inspections or arranged for payment facilities. It may also be a period when rules and regulations are being negotiated. Some bars and restaurants continue to operate in this halfway zone for months. 

Local media suggested that the Shanghai authorities had received a barrage of complaints about the new venue. There were claims of sexual and pornographic activities at the club. 

Club Angel denied this in an announcement online branding the accusations “an attack on the gay community.” The bar uploaded video clips and photos on its official microblog on Weibo, China’s Twitter, to prove it was just like any other bar. The club had also reportedly stated that they had enough reasons to believe the complaints originated from competitors – other gay clubs in town.

A government official was quoted by the Shanghai Daily, a state-run English language newspaper, saying the closure of Club Angel had nothing to do with it being a gay venue.

“The club was temporarily closed because it illegally started trial operations without a business license. The crackdown had nothing to do with discrimination against the gay community,” said an official with the Xuhui Cultural Law Enforcement Team. “When it has all the necessary and legal licenses and permissions, it may be reopened again.” 

But on the web, netizens voiced their concerns about what the shutdown could mean for the future of openly gay venues in the city. Q Bar, a popular gay bar near the famous Bund on Shanghai’s revitalised waterfront, was raided in April and remains closed. 

“Even if the gay pubs have been allowed to open, the supervising authorities can shut them down at any time by finding problems with safety issues,” said a blogger, nicknamed Xili, nothing that gay venues were always being watched by the authorities. 

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997 and officially removed from a list of mental disorders in 2001 but remains largely invisible in China.

J.W. Ken is a poet and freelance journalist who travels the globe writing, and is now in Shanghai.

China » Shanghai

Reader's Comments

1. 2011-08-10 18:34  
Looks like a really cool club, I hope they get their licence. Is Shanghai a good place to visit?
Comment #2 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:05
3. 2011-08-10 20:06  
This club is great, I hope it reopens soon. They need to watch how many people they let in, that's all. They also have this clever system by which you get a membership card for a small fee then load it with money at a separate cashier, which allows bartenders to swipe your card and prepare your drinks fast without handling cash - also making people come back as the card is valid for 6 months and your money stays there safely... The light and sound systems are excellent and the atmosphere friendly. A good competitor to clubs D2 and Shanghai Studio...
4. 2011-08-10 20:51  
Seems to be a happening place and not surprised Shanghai and other major chinese cities have places for guys who like parties. I think the sexual activities can be referred to the soliciting of MBs or sexy go-go shows ? Anyway, establishments like these are always creative to lure pink dollars :) Its a pity though to have it closed.
5. 2011-08-10 21:03  
that is a very great place....I love the show....
6. 2011-08-10 23:52  
I just came back from shanghai to korea, and my friends and I were so disappointed when we found out it was closed.

I was so excited to go there.

Anyway, I hope it opens soon for gay community in shanghai.

Comment edited on 2011-08-10 23:56:20
7. 2011-08-11 06:38  
Simple solution like everything else in China. Pay off the government and you won't have problems.The officials want their share of the pink dollar as well.
Comment #8 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-11 06:39
9. 2011-08-11 08:50  
too sad, there is a long way to go for gay Chinese, too bad, I never get a chance to check it out, hope it will reopen soon
10. 2011-08-11 09:55  
in my honest opinion, the club seemed to be kinda dead. When i go clubbing i go to have fun drink and bob my head up and down with the music with a good high. but everyone is just standing out checking eachother out and not even dancing... lame...
11. 2011-08-11 11:48  
Yes, I would bet that the competition did the complaining. No one beats up on the gay community quite as well as the gay community itself. Nothing or no one as nasty as a de-throned "queen".
12. 2011-08-11 12:13  
The government said "Only one child". The parents said " We only want boys" and now they wonder why they've ended up with so many gay men
Comment #13 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-13 17:05
14. 2011-08-11 17:24  
@#2 I agree with you but shhhh don't tell anyone yet. Let's enjoy it before everyone else gets here. hehe
15. 2011-08-12 00:29  
Wow, Shanghei sounds like the place to live. I hope it reopens soon.
Even here in the USA people are always trying to shutdown gay clubs. And they usually succeed. It takes a lot of effort to keep one open, even in the big cities. Here in Washington DC they find clever ways to close gay clubs. For example, we had a section of the city with about 3 super gay discos and gogo boy bars. The city decided to build a baseball stadium on that spot because they magically could not find any other suitable spot in the entire city. Naturally, almost none of those places was reopened because the home owners in the rest of the city said "not in my neighborhood". Even the gay home owners.

Conservative leaders in New York City succeeded in shutting down all large gay discos over the years by claiming drugs were sold on premise. Imagine that! Now New York City is so boring because it has been turned into a giant, chain store shopping mall devoid of sexual energy. Yuk!

So much for the land of the free. Let's move to Shanghai!
Comment edited on 2011-08-12 00:33:47
16. 2011-08-12 15:03  
Unfortunately, getting a license always involves paying off some dumb-ass, uneducated "government official" who doesn't know his head from his ass. So it seems an "official" statement from a "government official" in the aforementioned newspaper is nothing but some stupid f**ktard running his mouth to make himself sound all mighty and manly.....

but the 12 year olds running the government are neither mighty nor manly...they make "official statements" thinking that they're going to scare people, but we all know they run home at night and put on their pink tutus and look at their store-bought diplomas on the wall.

clearly, I have an opinion on this sort of thing.
17. 2011-08-17 18:52  
Club Angel was/is a fantastic venue. It's a great alternative to Shanghai Studio and D2. Alas, I had a feeling from its popularity during its soft opening there would be trouble. Club Mao used to get the gay/gay friendly business in that area until Angel and during its opening, Shanghai Studio was virtually deserted.

The whole thing sounds extremely underhanded and I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't the competition that started this harassment of what was promising to be a great venue.

I just hope it re-opens, I have about six of its "membership/drink" cards.
18. 2011-08-18 19:48  
hope i can visit that cool place.........very nice hope u can get licence.......
19. 2012-01-21 17:33  
For what I heard that wasn't the problem with local government. Luckily It is reopened. I'v been there a month ago. It is cool disco place.

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