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Life after Mars: what next for Adelaide's historic gay nightclub site?

Business

The vacant site that once housed Adelaide’s longest-running gay club, Mars Bar, could soon be home to laser tag, a large restaurant or a medium-sized nightclub.

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But its newly appointed leasing says reviving a queer venue there might be a tough ask.

“I’m just blown away that a property this epic has been sitting vacant,” says Belle Property commercial leasing agent Matt Lazarus, who uses the adjective repeatedly.

“I love this listing. I haven’t seen anything like this in quite a while.

“Basements … are quite on-point and in-trend at the moment.”

The 600sqm underground Gouger Street venue has stood empty since 2018, when an ill-fated replacement for Mars Bar, LGBTIQ club Oz, shut down.

The original dance-floor has now been removed, as has the rendering on several walls, revealing original redbrick.

But the bright yellow, industrial metal staircase entryway, emblazoned MARS BAR below the handrails on one side, remains testament to a storied history.

READ MORE: From Mars to Mary’s: Chronicling Adelaide’s queer nightlife

Lazarus says the space would be ideal for a large restaurant, an e-gaming or laser skirmish centre, or for an entirely new, medium-sized nightclub.

“It’s very versatile,” he says.

“The rent’s actually quite affordable at $150,000 a year, plus (utilities costs).”

Photo: Matt Lazarus

But he says the success of popular East End drag club Mary’s Poppin means any new queer venue on Gouger Street would face tough competition.

Mary’s – as it’s colloquially known – opened in 2016 in Synagogue Place, off Rundle Street, offering new drag performances and cocktails, and attracting many of Mars Bar’s regular patrons.

The East End club has since expanded into the adjacent venue that was most-recently branded Hacienda, and regularly books internationally touring drag queens to perform there.

The entry charge recently increased from $10 to $15.

“I know that Mary’s Poppin is very popular – very, very popular,” says Lazarus.

“The question is whether there is enough of a market in Adelaide for (another LGBTIQ club).

“It (Mary’s) is a great business – I’m not trying to pitch this as ‘we’re looking for a new competitor to Mary’s Poppin.’”

He stresses, though, that he is keen to discuss the venue with any interested party – and does not rule out the possibility of a new queer venue where Mars Bar once was.

Any new nightclub there, he says, would have the advantage of filling a gap in the market for a place to go dancing after dinner in nearby Chinatown.

The venue, located below Asian restaurant Mrs. Q, has a side entrance, opening the possibility of two separate tenancies.

The attached beer garden is also available for rent.

Lazarus adds that the closure of Hindley Street mega-club HQ presented the opportunity of a large customer base looking for a new night-time club to frequent.

“It would be very good timing for an (incoming) operator.”

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