Potemkin’s gay bar

The Gruniad is reporting that a new development must run a gay bar for at least 12 years. So in an age where discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is illegal, a developer is being forced to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. But has been demonstrated time and again only some forms of discrimination on the grounds of sexuality incur the ire of the powers that be. That however is by the by, the article claims that queer bars are closing at an “alarming rate”, which whilst it doesn’t specify what that alarming rate is one must assume that it’s substantially higher than the 29 pubs a week that the entire pub trade is seeing. It might be worth noting that the venue that has caused this bizarre planning requirement it located in the borough of Tower Hamlets. Now it could be a complete coincidence but Tower Hamlets has a rather high proportion of Muslims 38% compared to the national average of 5%, and adherents of Islam aren’t known for their propensity for frequenting bars gay or otherwise.

The BBC does make a stab at asking “Why are London’s gay bars closing”. Which raises the possibility that there’s less need for queer specific bars as people are more tolerant these days, and there are dating apps. However such a narrative isn’t allowed to live for long, before it switches quickly back to talking about the community need, and how there is still demand and that people are fighting back to save their bars. However much like many other campaigns to save community bars none of the actions being taken seem to actually involve the very simple idea of : drinking in them!

Bars and pubs have been closing across the board as demand falls: because younger generations are drinking less generally and people have less spare money. This is always going to hit venues with more specialist and thus smaller client bases harder than more open venues. So if your favourite venues are closing down you realistically have two choices:

  1. Drink in them, and get your mates to drink in them so they make more money and can stay open
  2. Start petitions to force other people to pay to keep them open for you whilst you drink else where

One of these will work long term, the other will keep the venue open as a parody of itself unable to adapt. The developers taking over the site of the Joiners arms, will have to keep a queer focused venue open for 12 years even if no one uses it. Subject to some sort of inspector to make sure it’s queer enough, but based on what criteria, does it have to be all drag queens and bears? What happens as queer and mainstream cultures cross and merge and inspire each other as they’ve always done? What trends count as queer enough? But so much simpler that people sign a petition to force other people to fund a social venue they may never use, rather than spending their own money to actually support a venue and keep it viable. So here we have the tragedy of community venues closing due to social changes and financial pressures repeated as the farce of state controlled discriminatory, fossilized loss making Ptomekin bars. All alternative and underground cultures are facing the same problem just ask a goth what they think of the changes to Camden. Now being queer isn’t the same as being a mod, rocker, psycho-billy or mettaller – but wanting to drink in a specific type of bar is. Many historic pubs have been lost to only the tears of the people that actually used them, and self pitying articles of people that liked to talk about how they would or did use them – without having set foot in them in years.

The simple inescapable truth is that if a venue matters to you, the only way to keep it it to use it, and spend enough money in it that it remains viable – anything else results only in state maintained theme parks which won’t be used either by the people that used to support the real venue or those that wrote mournfully about the decline of a “much loved” historic venue.

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