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Gay Bears’ Club Shuttered in Buenos Aires

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Feb 21, 2008
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A bear bar in Buenos Aires has been shuttered by authorities, who have claimed as grounds for the action both noise complaints and a lack of coin-operated condom dispensers.

As reported by Andrés Duque in a Feb. 20 post at Blabbeando
the bar Osos de Buenos Aires ("Buenos Aires Bear Club") was raided by police on Jan. 23, and summarily closed. The authorities offered seemingly inconsistent reasons for the bar’s closure, one being that a noise complaint had led to the closure, and the other being that the absence of coin-operated vending machines for condoms in the bathroom was a violation of code.

Blabeando cites an op-ed article published in Perfil in which the author, Graciela Mochkofsky, relates that the club had been shut down in Feb., 2006, because of noise.

As told by the president of the Argentine federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans, María Rachid, the bar applied for, and got, the proper permits, and re-opened. But the authorities were back, on Feb. 21, and upon hearing that the club had obtained the required permits, the authorities inspected the bar and advised the owners that the lack of coin-operated condom vending machines was a violation.

Said Rachid, "At several places throughout the site, baskets are always kept full of free condoms provided by the national government to the Bears as active participants in campaigns against AIDS."

The authorities were not impressed by the ready availability of free condoms and repeated that the club must install coin-operated vending machines to make condoms available to its patrons.

A similar situation evidently had occurred earlier at a lesbian bar, according to Mochofsky’s op-ed article, Blabbeando reported. The lack of condoms for purchase in the lesbian bar had led to a threat of closure.

After nearly a year, police returned and raided the club, shutting it down.

Wrote Blabbeando, "This seems to be the type of police harassment that was so prevalent in Latin America during the past few decades but coming from as ’gay friendly’ a city as Buenos Aires it still shocks. Let’s hope that the bears regain access to their lair sooner than later.

Blabbeado also alerted Rex Wocker, who had reportedly visited the club during a trip to Buenos Aires, Wockner included a mention of the club’s closure in his rundown of news items for the Windy City Times on Feb. 6.

In Wockner’s account, the raiding officials had no documentation to prove that they were authorized to inspect or close the club, so the members refused to allow them onto the premises. But when the members left the club, officials put up a notice of closure on the front door.

Wockner’s item quoted Racid, who was quoted by the newspaper Página, "Under this city government, it seems that the police feel protected in having discriminatory attitudes toward gays and lesbians."

Calling the incident "a violation of human rights," Racid said that her group would register a complaint with justice officials of the Argentine government.

Blabbeando, in a separate story also posted by Andrés Duque on Feb. 20, noted that a gay couple at Dixon Beach, a resort at Agentina’s Paraná Island, wee amused, and then alarmed, to see a restroom identified with a sign reading, "Homosexuales/Gays/Putos ("Faggots")."

One of the men, named Andres, tried the door and found it locked. He later told the media, "At first sight it appears to be likeable, amusing and even welcoming, but later it really disgusts you."

Andres continued, "Furthermore, the other [restroom doors] say ’Gentlemen and Ladies’ and, under that criteria, there should only be one [sign on those doors] that says ’Heterosexuals.’"

The couple sent a cell phone picture to the publication Rosario 3, which, in its investigation, spoke to resort owner Juan Cabrera.

Cabrera explained the sign was a gag, and said, "We left it without a latch so that it was for the exclusive use of [employees], and the sign was more than anything a joke used to restrict access."

Continued Cabrera, "I did not have a bad intention, nor did we want to discriminate against sexual minorities."
Added Cabrera, "I am a sexually open man and I would never things with that intent," Rosario 3 reported.
Added Cabrera, "If it was interpreted that way I apologize with all veracity because I do not want to anger or bother anyone. It was a joke and if I have to remove it I will."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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