Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hongba ("The Red Bar")

Hongba ("The Red Bar")

Location: People's Square, Shanghai, China

Opened: 2004

Closed: 2005

Happened to stumble upon what looks like a really interesting book on lalas (lesbians) in Shanghai. From what I have read so far, many cultural trends are consistent with what we see in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe. For example: the nomadic party scene that passes for lesbian socializing these days, and the increasingly rare and always endangered life of lesbian bars. 
People's Square

One of the few examples of a "dedicated" lesbian bar (or cafe) was Hongba ("The Red Bar"). We're told that it occupied a prime location  in People's Square, just opposite "Eddy's 1924" (a gay male bar). Hongba's owner is said to have been a lala herself, which is comparatively rare anywhere. 

Hongba is described as "small" and "cosy" with a "cultural atmosphere." According to Lucetia Yip Lo Kam:

It was at one time popular among lalas who preferred a quieter gathering space without deafening music and a huge dancing crowd. However, Hongba did not survive into its second year. Some informants told me it closed down because of financial difficulties. Unlike gay bars that usually have a steady flow of customers, lesbian bars are only busy on Saturdays. Many informants agreed that lalas are not as economically well-off, or at least not as willing as gay men to spend money in bars. This makes it extremely difficult for an exclusive lesbian bar to survive in Shanghai, one of the most expensive cities in China.

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