Laird Hotel Melbourne, Australia

Men on Men Art Comp
Laird Nuggets Bar

Welcome

Having operated as a gay venue for 30 years, the Laird Hotel is a name well recognised throughout the gay community, both local and international. It’s iconic in Melbourne as the bar a guy goes to when he wants to meet real men.

In fact it was the first hotel in Victoria to have been granted ‘Men-only’ status by the Anti Discrimination Board in deference to its history and service to the gay community. We cater to a wide range of men, and it’s a great place to meet up with locals and visitors from around the world.

Open seven nights a week, The Laird maintains an industrial look across its three main bars (Nuggets Bar, Back Bar and Cub Bar), as well as our pool room (the games are on us guys!). And like any good Australian pub, we’ve got a great beer garden out the back that draws a crowd all year round.

ABOUT US

HISTORY

The Laird O'Cockpen Hotel, built in 1847, is one of Melbourne’s oldest hotels and has always been an important part of the local community in Abbotsford.

Like many hotels in Melbourne, The Laird has seen its share of owners and operators, some of whom were not necessarily on the right side of the law. The Laird was once famous as one of the meeting places for illegal gambling during the earlier part of the 20th century. Famous (or infamous) people such as Squizzy Taylor were once common visitors. At the same time, The Laird has been the birth site of some of Victoria’s most treasured institutions. Doc Whitehead, a founder of some central Victorian social structures held many of his planning discussions over cool ales at The Laird. Being around the corner from the Town Hall and Police Station, next to the Masonic Lodge and four blocks from Victoria Park football ground, The Laird was a central component of Collingwood and Melbourne life.

In September 1980 The Laird changed hands. This time all the local and loyal supporters of the hotel found themselves in for a challenge. The Laird went GAY.

1980-1989

Because of the strong links to the local community it was decided that the hotel would be divided into two separate areas.

The public bar remained as the local bar for the long-standing local community, while the Back Bar was redesigned to reflect the taste and style of the new clientele. Over the next two years The Laird emerged as the major venue for men in Melbourne. The hotel policy was to attract the element in the gay community that was tired of "Drag shows" and "Discos" and preferred to drink in a hotel environment with men.

The décor of the hotel was masculine, featuring a western theme with a horseman as the hotel logo. Local clubs catering for the masculine end of the gay community made it their home. The SCMC (Southern Cross Motor Club), Jackaroos and Cruisers Motorcycle Club were all centred on The Laird. In 1988 the public bar was redesigned to become "Nuggets Bar" a bar dedicated to the leather and motor club community. Despite its new focus and décor, many members of the local community continued to use The Laird as an early evening meeting place, sometimes creating a very interesting mix of clientele!!

Laird pool table

1990-1999

The 80’s established The Laird as the most famous "Mans hotel" in Australia and the 90’s further cemented it in gay culture. With close links to other Leather/Denim bars worldwide, the hotel soon became the first stop for many international tourists. The Laird became known globally as the place for gay men to stay in Melbourne.

In 1998 The Laird took the unprecedented step of applying to the Anti Board to become the only "Male Only" hotel in Victoria. While many considered this to be an impossible goal, The Laird put forward its case based on its long history of service to the gay community and its position as a social centre for Melbourne and visiting gay men. The ADB recognised the importance of the hotel to the gay community in Melbourne and the exclusion was granted, the way for other venues in future.

2000-2009

This decade saw the Laird go through a few changes. The addition of the Cub Bar at the rear of the Back Bar was a fantastic improvement, ensuring easy access to drinks while remaining in the beer garden.

Then a major change occurred when the Laird said goodbye to Ron who went off in search of adventure in the outback. Ron Watkins was responsible for ensuring that the Laird remained a vital part of the scene in not only Melbourne, but Australia and beyond. This included strong support of Melbourne’s bear, leather and fetish scene, and ensuring that the Men on Men Art Competition grew into a well respected annual event.

This is when the current owners, Mark and Brett took over, vowing to honour the legacy created by previous owners, managers and staff such as Bill Saunders, John Wain, Paul Jones, Peter ‘Betty’ Bond, Steve and Ron. This was marked by the emergence of the Laird Leatherman Competition. Since then both the 2008 and 2009 (Mal Guest and Peter Fitzgerald) winners have gone on to be runner-up at Mr Australia New Zealand Leather Competition, an integral part of the newly revised Melbourne Leather Pride. Mal Guest also went on to compete at the 31st International Mr Leather Competition in 2009, further strengthening the Laird’s international leather reputation.

The new millennium also saw the VicBears go from strength to strength, with the Laird being an integral part of their success including being the host of the majority of their Southern HiBearnation events, year after year.

2010 AND BEYOND

While The Laird continues to modernise and improve, you can rely on the venue to provide the same friendly environment as it always has. Still the home of VicBears and Melbourne Leather Men, the pub has also taken on the sponsorship of the Melbourne Chargers Rugby Union Football Club, Victoria’s only gay rugby club.

Laird Bear Garden

2010 saw us celebrate 30 years of operation with a mega line up of events throughout October, including a massive Underwear Party with thanks to AussieBum; special VicBears & Melbourne Leather Men nights; open mic; an extra dirty Spit N Polish and a fun cocktail-party/BBQ on Cup Weekend. But the best weekend of all was when we had our men-only Dirty Thirty, with the all-inclusive Pearl the following night. Both nights were packed and could not have been a better way to celebrate this grand old gentleman of the gay scene.

To remain a friendly meeting place for gay men is still the primary focus. The hotel attracts a masculine yet varied crowd ranging from Leather Men through to Bears and the average ’man off the street’. There are a wide range of special events that make sure that there is always something interesting happening.