by Girl Behind the Lens – Daiyu Tang
Location: Rough Ryders
Welcome to Your Ryde
Readers, good news! I’ve got another free drink. It doesn’t get me above the minimum wage, but every little helps. In today’s article I was also lucky enough to meet, personally, with Ryder Millet, the local singing sensation who many of you will know from events at the Grind and other community parties.
So, as usual I’ve come out a few times unannounced and taken photos of the business and generally soaked up the atmosphere (and a drink) before then coming in this case to conduct an interview with the owner who had a lot to say about not just his business but also his roots. So really, this is 一箭双雕, or ‘killing two birds with one stone’ as you get a business review and a little insight into one of our local celebrities.
In this article I’ll cover the bar, the surrounding area including the rentals and then whatever else I came across in my conversation with Ryder. Finally I’ll end with a review score from GBTL. As always, I hope you find time to try out these businesses for yourselves and leave any feedback about your own experiences.
The Bar Overall
So, the bar is as you would expect the main attraction. It’s a well thought our place, compact but with enough entertainments and mingling places to meet the expectations of this reporter. Ryder appears to still be decorating a touch, so my photography visits did see a few changes from time to time, including new exterior lighting and a few other bits and pieces. So, what did GBTL see to keep her entertained that will hopefully appeal to you?
- A compact, but well stocked bar…
- A single, fancy pole which Ryder covers in his interview further below
- A roof top psychedelic dance floor!
- A roof top small swimming pool, more of a splash pool, but still great for warm nights
- A jetty area with beach
So as you can see, even excluding the rentals (covered later) there is a fair amount going on at RR’s. The building is split over two floors, although with the large concrete base to give the structure verticality you’ll get a little workout if you’re up and down often during your stay.
This early in the review, compare and contrast is a little harsh, but my general feeling was that while ‘Sinners’ was an example of a larger location furnished well, RR’s was a pretty good use of a smaller space to achieve the end Ryder wanted. It also seemed more ‘him’, with the furnishings, wood cladding and other architectural aspects fitting well into the beach setting and overall local area vibe.
Nothing to complain about here at all. Good service from the bar staff at the small bar which seats four or so customers. Good selection of beer, wine and then some cocktails, but this isn’t meant to be a place you can blow $100 on a drink, it’s good value, good drinking and reflects the owner’s intention and wishes for this to be a safe, accessible place for Hathian citizens, not necessarily Hathian’s elite (who I’m sure would be welcome, but just saying this is an accessible bar and venue!).
In Venue Entertainment
The main inside floor has the bar, some soft seating and then a pole for dancing. Now in most places in Hathian this would be for stripping, but that’s not Ryder’s intention. The musician sees this more as a community dance-off competition, or go-go style dancing that is more about the performance than nudity. Now, carrying thousands of $ of Observer equipment means I am not likely to go vertical, never-the-less I thought it was a nice touch, served a purpose and in the intimate space of the first floor really would get people talking, especially if someone tasty like Bruno was up there.
In addition to the pole, I also mentioned the roof top dance area and I can confirm there is a good sound system. The dance-floor might however give you a headache and I do wonder how long it’ll survive the Hathian elements, but for now it’s a fresh take on what makes dancing fun and I can see people getting down under the warm air here before kicking their boots and heels off and getting their feet wet in the splash pool.
As I sat on the edge of a rather large drop for this photo, I was grateful that for ordinary patrons that Ryder appeared to have specific high enough safety railings. Drink and heights do not mix! Just behind us you can see the sunken roof pool. Nicely done!
Around the Area
Ryder took me on a tour of the beach and other areas and I’d also come a few times for photographs without him. I thought that perhaps a campfire, or some outdoor furniture would be a good use of space as presently the jetty and beach are fairly empty, but Ryder was still working on the fitout so maybe when you visit reader you can careen down the stairs then spill out onto the beach, bear in hand and a burger or something sizzling on a firepit. Yummy!
Ryder’s office and probably the office for the management of the rentals sits here as well, but isn’t for customers. However on the track up to the bar there are three different style rental properties which although Ryder doesn’t directly manage himself contribute to the overall ambience and feeling of community of the area. As I understood it, two of the units were vacant, but one had been rented quite recently.
When I checked the pricing with Ryder, he thought they were pretty good value for money. There is a trailer (I think currently rented) and two row style houses, one painted in a fetching lemon colour. I believe they are ((Trailer: 400L$/200LI House 1: 660L$/350LI House 2: 800L$/400LI)) fairly reasonably priced, but obviously location, neighbours and other factors will sway you as much as pricing.
So that just about concludes my view of the venue itself, so I’ll weave in the interview with Ryder and then conclude. Hope the pictures so far have wet your appetite and I’m sure Ryder’s words will also encourage you to support this business.
Interview with Ryder Millet
Ryder arrived in a black pick-up truck, but we’re not talking something modern, this was a vintage Ford or something, like out of the 1950s or pictures from Cuba. By the end of the interview, I kinda felt it represented who he was quite well. While I hadn’t expected a luxury vehicle (and who knows he might have one somewhere) for Hathian this just felt right and in a way, respectful and respectable. It was a good start to the interview and after a few questions to set the scene, background and the like, Ryder was in full flow:
Ryder: “Well I’m Ryder Millet as ya know and I grew up in dis town. There used to be a gay club or bar named Howlers and I wanted to someday open my own but of course I was not of age and I ain’t had da funds so it sort of was shoved in da back of my mind. This year I just so happened to have been blessed to be able to make my dream come true. Of course I still plan on pursuing my music career but opening my own gay bar has been something I’ve wanted since I was around 18-19 years old. It’s certainly overdue. People in da LGBTQ++ Community have been wanting a safe place to be able to drink and hang out. Everyone is welcome of course but this place is specifically geared for da safety of those in da LGBTQ++ Community. I think dis is essential, especially in da south where we are a marginalized group.”
GBTL Daiyu: “In a way it’s a poor reflection on society that you have to create a safe place due to the intolerance that can follow the LGBTQ community around. Then again, it’s also pretty cool to be able to have your own place where you set the rules, the way you want, when you want… Oh and if I might, do you have a personal story you could share that illustrates that challenge growing up in the South and how it shaped you? No worries if not, I don’t want to get into trouble with any of your PR agencies or manager if you have one!”
I could relate to what he had said, minority groups around Hathian seemed to be in trouble or troubled more than they should be. Whether it was HPD or others… being different was a bad recipe in the city unless you had a safe space or a Group and that’s what Ryder appeared to be building.
Ryder: “Well actually dis was a bar already but it was sold to me. It was just a beach bar. I transformed it into a gay bar and as you can see, the work is ongoing. Well… I’ve heard a lot of accounts of people dealing with homophobia and other gender-oriented discrimination at other bars around town thus why dis is such an important project and a personal one.”
I could see him thinking hard about his story and was pleased he was ready to open up readers as I like to know why people tick, but especially if they’re a celebrity!
Ryder: “Much like so many it was difficult growing up in Hathian. I had issues dat stemmed from living in a household with a dad who was an addict and mentally ill. My mom had her hands full with my siblings. There were 8-9 of us depending. I went through a lot of… rough times. I was a bit of a bully growing up. My dad taught me dat showing weakness was what got you in trouble and as an adult what gotcha killed. So I exploited other people’s weaknesses. I was a really cruel teenager. I was also hurting after my parents divorced and there was always other shit going on. It took a stint in Juvy and some real self-reflection to start to change from those ways. A lot of people are similar even as adults because it’s rough to grow up and people will try to find a weakness and exploit it. I’m trying to move past all dat. I can’t stop da town from being shit really but I can try to give someone just a peace of safety. Hathian has almost destroyed me but it has also shaped me into da person I am today so I ain sorry for growin up here either. I am very blessed to have made it out of da depths of darkness.”
GBTL Daiyu: “Exactly, you set the place the way you want, but save on some of the cost by adapting, rather than building from scratch. Makes a lot of sense. Having parents who are present, who are all together and there for you when growing up, I think, is very important. When they’re not who you’d wish them to be it can get very difficult… and then lashing out, or being a bully, that’s probably a natural self-defence, even if it was also pushed by your dad for you to be strong… So a little bit of jail got you a moment of reflection and despite the troubles and issues in Hathian you’re investing back in the town with music and with this bar. That’s pretty admirable!”
And I did think it was readers. We need more people investing back, not just taking… I also don’t mean investing back by selling drugs or whatever.
GBTL Daiyu: “So when you were designing the space, what were the main things you wanted to offer? I think I see the shimmer of a pool on the roof, that’s pretty special!”
Ryder: “Well took longer than juvy… I am not gonna pretend I didn’t nearly fall by da wayside because I really did. I am lucky to be alive. But I am past all dat now and hope to give back. I mean, people have asked me why I don’t move out of da south and to Los Angeles or another big city like a lot of rock stars but I just…dis is my home and always will be. I got unfinished business right here and dis is where I wanna be at. Of course, I am careful to give my children security I never had.”
Ryder led me and my cameras through the bar where I collected some of the pictures you see in this article. He went to lengths to explain the different features and I’ve made a short summary of some of his key points below.
Ryder: “So I wanted to offer drinks of course, and a place to dance or chill, depending on their mood. I also wanted to give a unique experience of having go-go dancers. You wear outfits, skimpy or no, and dance on da pole and entertain da crowd without stripping. I thought dat was just something different than da status quo. Nothin’ wrong with strippers but I reckon there are plenty of places to do dat and having too many businesses doing da same thing just stretches it too thin. I want to focus on male dancers here but it is open for all gender identities of course. I am also going to have times where it is open for anyone to dance on. I think it’d’ be a fun karaoke sort of experience. I am hoping dat many different types of people can find a place dat is fun and safe for anyone whose ever felt different and out of place.”
GBTL Daiyu: “Yeah, the mainstream often attracts a crowd that doesn’t like differences… But it is important to I guess have allies, so hopefully the wider community will be supportive and by the way I do like a story with roots, roots that relate to family and wanting to give back, but I also think you’re brave with respect to Hathian… It as only a few months back I was writing about what happened to Delphine and some group targeting musicians….”
This was true readers. A group targeting musicians and trying to kill them, I did worry a bit as Ryder’s fame grew that he’d attract the wrong kind of attention.
GBTL Daiyu: “I like the bar, cosy but large enough for when it’s busy and that’s great on the go-go dancers, I think it makes a real difference as you say vs. TT or Spankys or whatever. I might have heard that you have Bruno working here? He’s great on a pole… I love watching him! By the way, what type of events do you think you might run? I know there’s been an opening, but what else would interest your customers?”
Ryder: “I am lucky I ain been targeted, but I have good protection.., Well, someone suggested to me a ladies night, and I’ll have half-off nights and just nights dat are completely geared toward others getting on da poles and strutting themselves. Honestly it is still in da planning stages but I am open for suggestions. So far I just been trying to get da word out.”
GBTL Daiyu: “Those all sounds like good events and I know the trouble with customers… just make sure the radio station has your ads and that from time to time the events occur. I notice you also have some property for rent outside?”
Ryder: “I will definitely have events and come up with new things. I want to make those who previously owned da bar Howlers, da first gay bar I ever been to, proud. Oh yeah da rentals… They aren’t mine but I am hoping dat maybe people will rent for da sake of proximity and safety. It is affordable too. I believe the initial appeal was to have people come to da bar and see da rentals. Like I said, rentals been renovated and da owner is also new from da old one so hopefully we can help each other generate revenue.”
That felt like a natural end to the interview about the place and the backstory, but before I went I had to ask Ryder one question, for the readership… you understand… Also, we’re not a Tabloid here, but sometimes… just sometimes got to ask these questions!
GBTL Daiyu: “I guess I’ve got to conclude on a cliffhanger though Ryder… obviously there’s a bit of star factor here, so will you grace the Observer with any gossip about your dating status? You mentioned kids earlier, so I didn’t want to pry, but is there a Mr, Miss or Mx in your life already? Or is this place the kinda venue for couples to also meet up…”
Ryder “Uh well I am pansexual but yeah I got a wife and five kids, though da oldest twins are from a previous relationship of hers. I adopted them”
GBTL Daiyu: “Ah congratulations! I have no idea how you manage one, let along five, a business, a career and more… So I’ve got the photos and I think I’ve got enough to review, I might have to swing by for a few more snaps later just in case I’m missing something in the article, but I guess is there anything you’d want to say finally? Your mic drop moment to Hathian?”
Ryder “Ahh um final words huh? A recent customer had suggested a kareoke with a musician type event and well that might just be one of da things dat end up going down on dat pier….keep yer eyes peeled and yer ears alert! And you know I am open for other suggestions and events. I want to fully cater to da want and needs of da customers. I want interactive communication! I wanna know what da people wanna see and experience.”
So that was the conclusion of our interview, we learned a bit about Ryder’s background, his desire for community cohesion, safety and support and then how he is moving forward with the RR to host events and support the community. I thought that went quite well!
So reader, we need to conclude… what did I think overall? Well, the host makes the venue and while we might not have Ryder there every day his influence is clear to see and helps set the venue apart. I liked the building, I liked the drinks and I liked the setting by the beach. My only concern is that Ryder is not making the best use of that beach for spillover events. While the tide can always be challenging, his staff should consider getting equipment down on the beach to support light food, snacks and drinking on the sand. Overall though, while the bar is on the smaller side of Hathian’s venues, the overall setting and atmosphere elevate it to a solid 8.25, our highest rating so far! Yes, it’s not directly comparable to a Pool Hall or a posh venue, but if I had to choose one of the three for an event, it’d be RR’s for most. Get that beach right Ryder and the Hathian beach won’t know what hit it!