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Adelaide’s longest running gay venue, located at 120 Gouger Street and known, until recently, as the Mars Bar, first opened in December 1976. Initially named Phaedra’s, it was widely referred to as the Cactus Patch because of the décor, which featured potted cacti against glam orange walls.

When it first opened, the entry fee to the all-male bar was $2.50. Downstairs was Tarantella’s restaurant (also known as Gina’s) which was owned and managed by the Phaedra’s team. While Tarantella’s had a dance floor, gay men were prohibited from dancing together there. Adelaide’s Homosexual Alliance regarded this as a violation of the Sex Discrimination Act and lodged a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission. After running at a loss for some months the venue opened its doors to heterosexual patrons on Wednesday and Thursday nights at a disco known as the Neptune Bar.

Around the early 1980s the venue was acquired by Andrew ‘Madge’ Hobbs, and was renamed the Mars Bar. It was an iconic Adelaide LGBT institution, which for over four decades welcomed some of the best known local and interstate drag performers and cabaret acts, including Rhonda Rottenbox, Vonni, Maggie Scott, Doug Lucas, Malt Biscuit, Venus Amore, Fifi and Rochelle. The venue also hosted numerous awards ceremonies and fundraisers, and held regular events aimed at specific communities.

In February 1986 Park Avenue opened on the site, and was home to the Pleasure Club and Chix restaurant. The club was a mixed venue which also ran regular womens’ nights. One of its many highlights was hosting the first Tosca Awards, an annual ceremony where LGBT people nominate fellow community members for awards such as Gossip Queen, Popular Faghag, and Twink.

On 13 May 2017 the Mars Bar closed its doors to patrons. As a venue known for its reinvention, it was reborn as Oz Nightclub.

By Nikki Sullivan, Migration Museum

Uploaded 17 August 2017

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