Ireland’s oldest gay bar, Loafers bar in Cork, closed its doors today.
In a shock move the proprietor Ted O’Connell confirmed to the Evening Echo that the iconic Cork bar would be closing permanently.
Mr O’Connell said the premises was under a lease, but that the building is now being sold and the bank wants vacant possession.
First opened in 1983 by Derek Gerrity, Loafers is the stuff of folklore in the gay rights movement across the country.
It became the first gay bar in Ireland, 10 years before homosexual acts were decriminalised and provided sanctuary to a marginalised element of society.
However, in the same month when Ireland will vote on the Marriage Equality Referendum the venue will shut its doors for the last time.
“It’s very, very sad, but today is the last day,” Mr O’Connell said. “We had hoped to be able to host a referendum celebration party later this month as we fight for a Yes vote but it will have to be somewhere else.”
Mr O’Connell said the bank wanted to have vacant possession of the bar as it was being sold but said economic factors had also impacted the bar in recent years.
“We have just had one of our busiest weekends with the Women’s Fun Weekend but overall I would say we are down 35% to 40% from when I first took over six years ago.
"It’s the same for gay bars everywhere, in London, New York, everywhere. I suppose in a way it is a positive thing that gay people do not feel ghettoised to drink in certain premises.”
In a facebook post he added: "It is with a profound sense of sadness that I have to announce that today will be my last day opening the door of Loafers. To say the least I am devastated."
Asked about possibly relocating the bar to a different premises, Mr O’Connell said they would "have to wait and see", but Loafers on Douglas Street would be closing tonight.
Mr O’Connell said a fitting tribute for Loafers’ legacy would be a Yes vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum on May 22.