The Commonwealth Games has allegedly prompted the revival of "gay cruising areas" in adult sex shops on the Gold Coast after they were pushed to the brink of extinction by hook-up apps including Grindr.
Cruise areas — where people in search of random sexual encounters can go to carry out their fantasies with each other — used to be problematic on the Glitter Strip with councils frequently receiving complaints about sex in public bathrooms and parks.
Several adult shops attempted to capitalise on the demand for spontaneous, no-strings-attached sex between strangers and opened "cruise areas" in the back of their stores, behind the sex toys and blow-up dolls. But as the internet-era swept the world, and people gained the ability to arrange sex with strangers without leaving their homes, they soon lost their value on the Gold Coast — a place where the concept had never fully taken off.
The City of Gold Coast council and Queensland Police had previously confirmed a reduction in the number of complaints about homosexual men having sex in public places since the introduction of apps including Tinder and Grindr in recent years. Until now.
According to the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth Games is expected to attract more than 672,000 visitors as well as 6600 athletes and team officials from 70 member nations and territories to the Gold Coast.
And just a few days into the event, many of those visitors are already in town — and they're looking for a good time. According to one Gold Coast resident who is hosting several overseas Games visitors, cruise areas have made a dramatic resurgence since the opening ceremony on Wednesday.
He said he regularly attended "cruise clubs and areas" because there was a lack of gay bars to meet like-minded people on the Gold Coast. And there are often "too many mind games" associated with online dating apps, according to him.
It's a sentiment that some visitors to the region appear to be sharing.
"One of the guys who is staying with me has been going to one of the clubs every night this week and there's been long queues to get in which is pretty much unheard of around here these days," he said.
"I know another bloke who has been going there at all hours of the day this week as well because there's new talent in town.
"That's what's bringing them all out: you can just go in, get what you want, and get out, whenever you want."
At least two venues allegedly featuring "cruise areas" still operate on the Gold Coast: The Den Adult Concepts in Mermaid Beach and Club R in Surfer's Paradise.
News.com.au has contacted both venues for comment.
Inside the Gold Coast's sex dens
Online reviews claim The Den Adult Concepts contains a hidden section at the back. It's a common feature of sex shops around the world, including Sydney, but on the Gold Coast it's a little known concept that has never quite taken off.
To get in, customers pay an entry fee of $15 at "the back counter" and are then required to sign in, but according to one user, "Daffy Duck will do".
"[Then] you open the door to the right and enter," one user wrote in an online review.
"You can have passouts all day long.
"Friendly staff make you feel welcome."
The area features private booths, according to TravelGayAustralia.com. Three television screens continuously play pornography.
Condoms, lubricant and towels are stacked on the shelves for customers to use.
"It's all a bit down at heel but that kind of adds to the appeal for most people," it continues.
According to The Den Adult Concepts' Facebook page, the store offers "quality adult products, a men's only cinema and a men's club". But not everyone leaves happy.
One user described the cruise area at The Den as "hit and miss" in an online review.
"This venue is like so many: Great one day, rotten the next," it read.
"The main thing is that it is there . . . the Coast is sorely lacking in gay venues."
Surfers Paradise's Club R — advertised as "a real guys private cruise club" — has been operating in the area for more than 20 years. It features cruise areas, play pens and private cubicles as well as an adult shop and private members lounge. Customers can pay $12 for "casual entry available daily" but there are discounted rates available for concession holders.
"Club R is a Gay/Bi-Guys Private Cruise Club," the company site reads.
A spokesman for the venue told the Gold Coast Bulletin that business had softened in recent years as guys started to find each other online. But the worker said many Club R clients had heard horror stories about online hook-ups and preferred to meet at a face-to-face venue.
"I think places like these are good because it stops men from going to beaches, parks and toilets," he said.
The Gold Coast's 'cruising' past
In 2016, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported that more than 140 massage parlours opened on the Coast in just one year in anticipation of the Games.
Last year, it was revealed that a Gold Coast beach park had earnt rave reviews from travellers who rated it as a prime location for "city hook-ups" on gay travel website Cruising Gays.
Phillip Park on The Spit, earmarked for a new cruise ship terminal proposed by Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, earns a four-star review for boasting a big, open car park, good lighting and "lots of bushes along the beach", the Courier-Mail reported.
The guide encourages visitors to "get your gear off and have fun" — though it also warns to keep an eye out for patrolling police cars and revheads that like to loiter in the area.
However, the reviews have attracted criticism among the online community, with some fearing the after-dark activities made the park unsuitable for families.
There have been calls for the council to clear some of the trees and bushes to discourage the covert liaisons.