Panti Bliss on the business of being 'Panti'

Rory O'Neill explains to Bobby Kerr why every drag queen needs to be an entrepreneur...

Panti Bliss on the business of being 'Panti'

Panti / Facebook

In the electric history of Down to Business we've covered almost every industry - but Rory O'Neill A.K.A Panti Bliss is the first guest we're had on to talk about the business side of being a drag queen.

Rory told Bobby Kerr about how a summer spent as a student running around the night clubs of London broadened his mind and set him on a track towards exploring performance art and creating his first drag shows.

In the early days Rory never thought that his new-found passion could become a career, he stated performing for "pocket money" but always thought that he'd need to get a "real job" eventually.

"As it turned out - the more I did it - the more I found out ways to make money out of it and it ended up paying my rent," he told Newstalk.

Soon he started learning how to profit from his art: "To be a drag Queen you need to be an entrepreneur - because you need to find ways to make money out of it [...] Anything that comes along, you have to find out how to make a few pence out of it," Rory continued.

After years spent running and promoting club nights, facing 40 he decided it was time to get his own venue.

He opened Panti Bar on Dublin's Capel St - but the timing was less than perfect:

"It seemed like a great idea at the time, but 6 months after we opened ‘the crash’ happened."

The pub owner reflects that half his customers emigrated and those who stayed at home stopped going out.

As the economy recovers the challenges that owners of gay venues face are changing:

"The business of gay bars has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. All over the world, in London and New York, gay venues are closing," Panti added.

“When I was in my 20's - I would go to the gay bar numerous times a week because in those days being gay was ‘properly’ difficult," these pubs offered a safe space.

"It was a sanctuary, it was the one place where you were able to go and be yourself and hang out with your friends - and that space isn’t as necessary anymore."

He also notes that online dating has also led to less singletons hitting the town in search of partners - and this means that pubs need to work harder to pull in punters.