It was my late-night, last call stop in Paris for years. There was something about the 3 euro pints during their random happy hour from 11pm to midnight. But as I walked by Le Feeling Bar in Paris’s Marais a few weeks ago, I was alarmed by construction. A new éclair boutique was set to replace it. It is the end of the era.
Le Feeling Bar was an underdog of gay bars in Paris. A dive in the truest sense, it consisted of little more than a bar and a few stools. It had none of the glitz or glam of nearby hotspots like Raidd Bar or FreeDJ.
It was simple. Basic. Cheesy. Perfect.
The crowd was always a sorted lot, or so they seemed – perhaps due to the fact that I only arrived after a few beers at other bars. They were guys of all ages and walks of life who set up on a barstool probably around 6, for the first round of happy hour, and just stayed through midnight when beer was again cheap. Sometimes they were cute, sometimes they were foreigners, sometimes they were awful, but they were always nice. There was no more welcoming gay bar in Paris where you could strike up a conversation easily.
And then there was that beer. The absolute worst beer I had ever drank, but friends I would sit there and manage to get down a pint or two, sometimes treating ourselves to a vodka tonic when we had a few extra euros. It was true to itself, and everyone knew that you didn’t go to Le Feeling for the drinks. You went for the silvery decorations and the often attractive bartender. You went because none of the cool kids did.
Despite the horrible taste, the beer would get into your system and eventually, you’d have to hit the restroom. Here, Le Feeling really showed its colors. Upon entering the restroom, clients would discover a hole in the ground – an authentic Turkish toilet – where they could empty their bladders. Out of towners loved the novelty of it while some girls were bewildered by it. It gave Le Feeling its charm, if charm can be qualified by restroom facilities.
Now we’re not complaining – we love the éclairs at Éclair de Génie that has replaced Le Feeling. But when a chain takes over yet another gay bar, we have to shed a tear. The Marais is continually losing its character, as gay and lesbian venues dwindle. The Marais of 10 or 20 years ago, when everything seemed a little gayer, has given way to a Marais full of shops, John Galliano, Chanel, and fancy éclairs.
Such is gentrification, but the problem is that the gay bars aren’t moving elsewhere. As things like Grindr and more accepting attitudes towards gays and lesbians change the need for gay-only venues, the bars are facing extinction. But is the lack of gay bars really a sign that Paris is totally accepting, or is it pushing us back into a bad situation where we have to hide? It’s too soon to tell, but I’m hard-pressed to find the silver lining of Le Feeling closing – even the beer will be missed…