Croatia’s Adriatic coast, long a magnet for international tourists, has belatedly acquired its first openly gay bar, though many customers are straight people who just enjoy its relaxed vibe in the picturesque setting of Dubrovnik’s Old Town.
Located amid the cobbled streets and historic buildings of the medieval port city, “Milk” opened its doors last month and local media say it is the first dedicated gay bar on the Croatian coast, though there are other “gay-friendly” venues.
“This is the only official gay bar on (Croatia’s) Adriatic coast, which is extraordinary because Croatia is a major European tourist destination,” said Igor Mlinaric, 27, a local journalist.
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“No matter how conservative and traditional we are here, all kinds of people come to Dubrovnik and there has always been gay tourism, even if there were no venues catering specifically for them,” said Mlinaric, who is gay.
The bar has become a popular venue in its first month of business, though Mlinaric added: “As far as locals are concerned, I think it is mostly straight people so far who are coming.”
Balkan countries remain mostly rather conservative on social issues and homophobia and discrimination against sexual minorities are common, often fueled by religious leaders and right-wing political parties.
Croatia legalised gay sex more than 40 years ago, when it was still part of Yugoslavia, but despite the impact of mass tourism in recent decades, attitudes towards homosexuality have not changed markedly in the staunchly Roman Catholic country.
Romana Ivusic, the bar’s co-owner, said she had sought to fill a gap in Dubrovnik’s tourism market.
“Local people have reacted positively, seeing this as an addition to what Dubrovnik has to offer for tourists,” she said.