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Review of Route 66 1994


This article appeared in in April 1994, and reviews the newly opened .

REVIEW : Route 66

The opening of Route 66 on a Wednesday in late February was one of the most eagerly anticipated events on Birmingham's gay scene for many years. Allegations of gazumping on the building from the Nightingale, uncertainty about the nature of the venue's licence and rumours (unfounded as it turned out) of the brewery Bass investing telephone number amounts on refurbishment all preceded the opening. The anticipation was high. And, as it happened, not many attending the first few nights were disappointed.

Route 66 has a very West End feel circa 1985 with art deco touches. It clearly wants to be a club rather than a pub (and will be before the end of the year word has it) and strives to maintain a youngish appeal with a well-proportioned dance floor operating most nights. As if to emphasise the clubby feel of the place, the brewery has paid a few bob fora new lighting rig although this seems to be the only big alteration from the venue's previous identity as Rockwells. Food, happy hour prices as low as 1 a pint and live entertainment area few of the attractions. The bar staff recruitment policy has obviously majored on pretty-boy-next-door looks - they're certainly the sexiest staff in the city - but someone seems to have forgotten to tell them how to smile. You can take the West End feel too far boys - let's hope it's just early nervousness.

The reaction of customers was generally favourable. These area few of the comments:

"It's about time Birmingham had a classy gay bar instead of dark dungeons all over the place." Paul, Sandwell

"I'm not sure about the decor - it feels a bit cold: more like having a drink in a clap clinic." Jason, Perry Barr

"Love the staff - extremely shaggable." Mark, Kings Heath

"Cheap booze, good music, food if you want it and the feeling that someone's spent a bit of money on the place - I like it" John, Moseley

"It brings Birmingham into the big league along with Manchester. About time. Great music." Rob, Birmingham

"It's got real potential but it's obvious that everyone's a bit nervous - perhaps it'll get friendlier when it's been open a few weeks" Mark, Coventry

Although other gay venues area little anxious about the involvement of the big brewery in a major gay venue, it does look as if Route 66 will be doing its bit to bring in trade from across the West Midlands and even further afield.
Birmingham's gay scene desperately needs a new lease of life but whether can supply it only time will tell: the early signs are encouraging for the venue providing it can capture some of the warmth and welcoming feel of the more traditional gay venues.

Martin Hamilton

Contributed by: Outspoken

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