Nightclubs encourage a new social mixpounds pounds pounds against stri ctly homosexual or heterosexual venues. Roger Tredre reports

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The Independent Online
BARS AND nightclubs which openly encourage a mixture of homosexual and heterosexual people are gaining ground in London and other cities.

Regular clubbers say the 'gay- straight' mix has become the height of fashion. Jessica Stein, 23, said: 'The clubs are much more fun now. No one has to worry about role playing.'

However, the development has aroused controversy within the homosexual community, including angry letters to Time Out, the London listings magazine with a gay section.

One letter criticises the growth of gay-straight clubs. 'Who needs homophobic straight boys getting drunk and picking fights to prove their masculinity in front of their girlfriends?'

But many homosexual clubbers, particularly among the younger generation, welcome the mixed venues. The trend has also been given the seal of approval by pop stars, who are keen to perform at the new clubs.

Sister Sledge appeared last week at Wink] Wink], a Friday night club launched this month at the Fridge, Brixton. Next week Bananarama plays at the club, where young men and women of every sexual persuasion dance to garage and house sounds.

Yvette, club 'hostess', said: 'It's more relaxed. I've got lots of straight friends who like the mix.'

The Edge, a bar in Soho Square, central London, is appealing to both homosexual and straight men and women.

David Molyneux, co-owner, speaking at the opening party on Tuesday night, said: 'Attitudes are changing, particularly among the young. People in their late teens and early 20s don't make a fuss about whether their friends are gay or straight.'

Mr Molyneux claimed that the atmosphere of the new breed of mixed bar was less aggressive than heterosexual-dominated bars, but lighter than wholly gay bars, where many of the customers are 'looking for a pick-up'.

Many young homosexuals say they no longer want to visit gay bars. Nat Cagliaba, 24, a civil servant from London, said: 'I have lots of straight friends, so why should I want to go to a place where they feel excluded? There's often pressure on you in gay bars. People go there looking for sex, so they are not necessarily the best place for a quiet drink.'

The prototype for the new kind of bar is Manto in Canal Street, Manchester. Peter Dalton, who opened the bar in 1990, said: 'The gay bars are regressive. They're ghettoising the community.'

Mr Dalton said Manto attracted more straight than gay people before 10pm. 'After 10, it tends to be slightly more gay-oriented. The queens come out an hour later - they take longer to get ready.'

(Photograph omitted)