Russell*, a macho dancer in one of Pasay's gay bars, asked me if I could help him. He was not earning anymore in his bar due to low sales (which is being experienced generally in most big gay bars in the area nowadays). He was planning to transfer to another gay bar, the "Answer for the Emotionall Needy" (ATEN), which he also heard through the gay bar grapevine is really strong. And to enter the bar, he needed a customer to accompany him.
That's why he texted me: "Musta? Pwede mo ba ako samahan sa ATEN? Apply lang ako... (How are you? Can you accompany me to ATEN? I'll just apply...)"
This was not the first time I heard that for a macho dancer to apply to that particular bar, he had to bring along a guest with him. Anyone can apply, I think, but it'll be easier to be accepted if the bar is assured of new revenue coming in, in the form of a customer.
Being the "ka-tropa" (a friend from a group or "gang mate") of the macho dancers I have encountered lately, I obliged to his favor. Besides, I was really curious how this unique set-up would work out. I haven't been used as a way to apply to a new bar.
What happened next, after the jump:
So as I entered the bar with Russell, and after I was introduced to the floor manager, it seemed that the floor manager knew I was a patron from another bar. He kept on comparing their bar to the other bars in Manila -- cheaper drinks by 25%, no obligatory twin drinks at entrance, no add-on fees like service charge, no need to buy the pricey MD drinks every hour. "Diba mas okay? (Isn't it better?)" he kept on mentioning again and again.
Another ATEN floor manager whom Russell knew in another bar approached our table. I was curious to find out from management perspective what made the bar so strong. He mentioned the cheaper drinks again (oo na, naniniwala na akong mas mura talaga), but he added how there were fresh faces all the time. The customers won't get bored by returning again and again, he explained in Tagalog, as there were always a new face to see, with macho dancers always coming and going.
That was what I was expecting -- seeing familiar faces from the other gay bars I've been to. I knew that the bar was a tambakan of former macho dancers from other bars, those with poor sales just like Russell. I saw a handful from Kingdom Come. One was from Home Base. They seemed to recognize me. "Sir, nandito pala kayo! (Sir, you're here!)" was how one all-the-way from Home Base greeted me when he passed by our table. So I was the familiar face to them, it seemed.
Before leaving at 5AM with the bar still full, I told Russell that I'd only help him enter the bar, but I couldn't promise to support him by being his regular guest there. I was honest to him that I was a regular in another bar. He assured me, "Oo naman! Hanggang pag-pasok lang. Ako na bahala sa pagkuha guests, basta makapasok lang (Yes, of course! I really just need to apply. Let me take care of getting my own guest; I just need to enter)."
Good. I wasn't worried with him finding new customers. The bar looks to be filled with all sorts of gay bar patrons everyday. Apparently, one of his former MD buddies, who isn't that popular in the bar where they've used to work, is one of ATEN's top and most frequently-requested dancers already. So maybe Russell is hoping to be at the top once again, but just in another bar.
I didn't realize that the gay bar "Answer for the Emotionally Needy" (ATEN) was that strong. Maybe that's the only solution a macho dancer can think of as to where to transfer, once he has lost his appeal in the other bigger bars.
And these bigger gay bars won't need to wonder why they've been losing sales, customers, and even macho dancers nowadays. If they need answers, they should know where to look.
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila