Historic Zurich queer bar reclaimed after 20 years of closure

The doors of Barfüsser are open once again, honouring its long history as one of the first gay bars in Europe.

Kweer bar in Zurich.
Image: @KWEER via Facebook

The Zurich building that housed Barfüsser, one of Europe’s first queer bars, has reopened under the name Kweer after spending the last 20 years as a sushi restaurant. The venue has not only seen a lot of LGBTQ+ history, but now under its new ownership, it looks to once again honour its roots in the community going forward.

Originally opened in the 1950s, the bar’s owners hired a waiter that had been fired from his previous role because he was gay. Even though homosexuality has been decriminalised in Switzerland since 1942, you could still be registered as gay by police up until the ’70s, which would often lead to people losing their jobs or housing.

The new employee, more coincidentally than not, attracted his best customers to the establishment and it quickly became a hub for the queer community, embracing its new image.


Remarkably, the first Swiss LGBTQ+ rights organisation was formed as early as 1932 and, headed by Laura Thoma, it centred mostly around the magazine Das Freunschaftsbanner (the Banner of Friendship) which would later turn into Der Kreis (the full name being: Der Kreis – Le Cercle – The Circle), thought to be the world’s first gay magazine. The group of gay men, publishing under pseudonyms, gave other members of their community a voice.

Published 6 times a year, one-half of the magazine was in German and the other half was partly in French and partly in English. The publication consisted of political commentary and literary texts as well as poetry, and also featured personal ads that allowed people to connect with others in the community. 

When the group behind the publication lost its own establishment, it started meeting across the street in Barfüsser. Due to the organisation’s extravagant parties, the venue became known as the queer space to be, and it was able to flourish despite frequent police raids.

With the emergence of more erotic LGBTQ+ publications in the 1960s coming mostly from Scandinavia, Der Kreis slowly lost its relevance and had to stop publication. Barfüsser, however, remained a beloved community space all throughout the ’70s and ’80s because of its long ties with the community.

To keep the queer history alive, the City of Zurich specifically encouraged LGBTQ+ applicants to reclaim the space when looking for new tenants after the previous owner had to close his restaurant. And since September 2022, people can once again enjoy a great night out in the historic LGBTQ+ space.

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