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Gay Street

 


Already since 1980, Reguliersdwarsstraat is the most famous and trendy gay street in the Netherlands. Here you can read how the street has developed in those 40 years!




updated: 29-04-2021


Openness

The open and international character of Reguliersdwarsstraat started at lunchroom Downtown which opened already back in 1970. Other gay places at that time still had shuttered windows and a doorman at the door.

Such a closed place was the Mac Donald, which opened in 1963 as the very first gay café in Reguliersdwarsstraat, and also De Viking (1976-1987), the first gay disco in the street.



A view alongside April and Downtown (1983)
(photo: David Jarrett)


The glory years

The big break through came in 1980, when Frans Monsma and Guus Silverentand started to organize high-profile parties out of Downtown, which made Reguliersdwarsstraat the hippest place to be. They then opened April (1981-2010), which became Amsterdam's most famous gay café.

The most popular place of the nineties was gay café/dancing Havana (1989-2002), which attracted countless gay and straight people, natives and immigrants, Amsterdammers and tourists for many of whom it still has a special place in their heart.



Hollywood-party at Havana, with Manfred Langer of the iT
(photographer unknown)


The Kooistra businesses

Later, April and Havana were taken over by bar tycoon Sjoerd Kooistra, who in 1988 added gay disco Exit and the Exit Café, and in 1999 opened café-pub Soho. Finally, he also bought cocktailbar ARC, which had been opened in 2002.

Under Kooistra the still popular Happy Hour was introduced and ever larger street parties were organized, culminating in the performance of Kylie Minogue during the Gay Pride in the year 2000:


Performance of Kylie Minogue during Gay Pride (2000)
(video: MVS Gaystation)


Street parties

The Amsterdam Gay Pride, with its famous boat parade, was set up in 1996 by a group of people from Havana, not as a protest or demonstration like in other cities, but to celebrate freedom and diversity.

That's also how in Reguliersdwarsstraat the Pride is celebrated with a big street party, just as is the case during King's Day - which is the successor to Queen's Day, that was celebrated in the street already since the eighties:



Street party during Queen's Day (2009)


Current gay places

In 2010, Reguliersdwarsstraat received a major blow when the businesses of Sjoerd Kooistra collapsed and all his well-known gay places had to close. Meanwhile, however, the street has fully recovered and now has just as many gay venues as before that time.

In addition to the classic café-club Soho, there's the late night Exit Café, the hip openminded club NYX, and the popular Taboo Bar with neighboring Taboo Kantine. The latest addition is Bar BLEND.

In the eastern part of Reguliersdwarsstraat, near Rembrandtplein, there's the Caribbean gay bar Reality.



Reguliersdwarsstraat at night (2018)


Gay Village

Besides the nightlife venues there are also a few gay-friendly coffeeshops, a number of gay lifestyle shops and hairdressers as well as a series of restaurants where gays traditionally like to go for dinner.

With this concentration of gay-oriented businesses, Reguliersdwarsstraat can rightly be called the Gay Village of Amsterdam, comparable to the gay neighborhoods of major cities elsewhere in the world, like San Francisco, Montréal, Manchester and Berlin.



Lots of green in the Secret Village of Reguliersdwarsstraat (2018)


Secret Village

The village character also speaks from the seclusion by the surrounding buildings and the pedestrian area and is further enhanced by the planting that was introduced in 2016, when the western part of the street was renamed to Secret Village.

Under this name, the business association wants to make the street more attractive, while maintaining the gay character. The latter was clearly demonstrated by the many rainbow decorations during the celebration of EuroPride in 2016:



Street party celebrating EuroPride (2016)



Rainbow street

First only the gay venues had rainbow flags flying, but in June 2020 all bars, restaurants and shops in the western part of the street got two rainbow flags to show the openness and diversity of the entire street.

In July of that year, Reguliersdwarsstraat also got its own rainbow sidewalk to brighten up the previously rather dark passage under the Carlton Hotel. It's not a pedestrian crossing, but has a more artistic shape with wavy stripes in rainbow colors:



The rainbow sidewalk in Reguliersdwarsstraat (2020)



Links

- In Portuguese: Reguliersdwarsstraat, a histórica rua gay de Amsterdam
- Portal site: Gay Village Amsterdam

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