LGBT+ venues in crisis - London has lost 58 per cent since 2006

06 July 2017

Alarming new report shows London’s LGBT+ venues in crisis, with a 58 per cent loss of spaces in the past decade

  • Report published by University College London Urban Laboratory shows more venues at risk
  • Mayor and Night Czar encourage developers, venues and pub companies to sign up to new LGBT+ Venues Charter
  • The Marmalade Pub Company, a partnership between Marylebone Leisure Group and Ei Managed Investments – which operates Molly Moggs in Soho – is the first signatory to the charter
  • Annual audit of LGBT+ venues to highlight Sadiq Khan’s commitment to protecting the capital’s night-time economy and culture

 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has pledged to do all he can to protect the capital’s LGBT+ nightlife as alarming figures released today show how the number of LGBT+ venues have more than halved in the past decade.

Both Sadiq and Amy Lamé, the Mayor’s Night Czar, spoke out after the report, published by UCL Urban Laboratory, painted a stark picture for LGBT+ venues in London.

In 2006, there were 125 venues in operation, while in 2017 there are just 53 – a fall of 58 per cent. The breakdown of where LGBT+ venues have been lost across the city is illustrated in an interactive map also released today*.

One of the hardest-hit boroughs is Islington, which has lost 80 per cent of its LGBT+ venues since 2006. During the same period, Lambeth lost 47 per cent of its LGBT+ venues, with Camden and Westminster both losing 43 per cent.

Despite LGBT+ venues often being thriving and successful businesses, today’s study shows that they are closing because of external pressures such as large-scale developments, a lack of safeguarding measures in the existing planning system and the sale and change of use of the property by landlords.

Other major drivers of closure include rising business rates and rents, as well as a change of ownership, which can sometimes lead to venues becoming targeted at non-LGBT+ clientele.

London has suffered several high-profile LGBT+ venue losses over recent years, including The Black Cap in Camden, The Joiner’s Arms in Tower Hamlets and The Queen’s Head in Chelsea.

From the outset of his Mayoralty, Sadiq Khan pledged to make safeguarding London’s night-time economy and culture a core priority, and protecting LGBT+ spaces is a key part of this. LGBT+ venues contribute to London’s economy, generate stronger and more resilient communities and are vital for many people’s freedom of expression.

In response to the findings, the Mayor has announced a series of initial measures to help stem the flow of closures:

  • Night Czar mediation

The Mayor has instructed his Night Czar Amy Lamé to make protecting LGBT+ venues an urgent priority by acting as a mediator between venue owners, and developers and pub companies, and reaching out to venues in trouble to offer support from City Hall. Amy has already done extensive work in this area and recently stepped in to help ensure that Molly Moggs – an LGBT+ pub located in Soho – is saved for the community.

  • Encouraging venues to sign up to a new LGBT+ Venues Charter

The Mayor and Night Czar have developed a new LGBT+ Venues Charter to help safeguard venues for the LGBT+ community. Venues, developers, pub companies and property owners are all encouraged to sign the Mayor’s LGBT+ Venues Charter. It is a practical tool that organisations can sign up to if they want to open a new LGBT+ venue or reopen one that has closed, to affirm their commitment to the LGBT+ community in London.

 

Mayor’s LGBT+ Venue Charter

1.         A visible rainbow flag should be displayed on the outside of the venue

2.         The venue should be marketed as an LGBT+ venue

3.         The venue will provide a welcoming, accessible and safe environment for all

4.         Management and staff should be LGBT+ friendly

5.         Programming should be LGBT+ focused

 

This five-point pledge is endorsed by Stonewall, Pride in London, UK Black Pride, Queer Spaces Network, as well as several promoters and operators of LGBT+ venues. 

Amy Lamé has been working closely with the Marmalade Pub Company, a partnership between the UK’s largest pub company, Ei Group and The Marylebone Leisure Group. The Marmalade Pub Company will shortly take over Soho institution Molly Moggs and will refurbish and reopen the venue as The Compton Cross later this summer. The company is the first signatory to the Mayor’s LGBT+ Venue Charter, which will ensure that the pub continues to be a fully inclusive and welcoming venue for the LGBT+ community.

  • Carrying out an annual audit of LGBT+ venues

Sadiq has committed to undertake an annual audit, so that the number of LGBT+ venues in the capital can be tracked more closely, and efforts can be made to stem the flow of closures in the city. This annual audit will feed into Sadiq’s new Cultural Infrastructure Plan, which sets out to identify what is needed to sustain London’s future as a cultural capital.

The Cultural Infrastructure Plan will consider a wide range of cultural assets, from dance studios to theatres and artist studios to nightclubs, with a view to embedding culture into the forthcoming London Plan, the Mayor’s development strategy for the capital, ensuring that culture is planned in a similar way to other vital services, such as housing and transport.

  • Building safeguarding measures into planning process

The Mayor has been a long-time advocate of introducing Agent of Change planning principle to safeguard London’s live music venues, clubs and pubs – including LGBT+ venues. Sadiq has pledged to introduce the principle in the next London Plan.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I hold LGBT+ venues in very high regard and have made it clear that protecting them is an integral part of my plans to grow London’s night-time economy and culture. The importance of LGBT+ venues cannot be overstated in the role they play in helping members of an often vulnerable community to take pride in their identity, and enriching London as a whole.

“These shocking figures show that more than half of the capital’s LGBT+ venues have closed down in the last decade and urgent action needs to be taken. I want London’s LGBT+ community to feel truly valued, happy and safe in our great city and know how important these spaces are to its wellbeing.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for LGBT+ venues to exist, and as difficult as possible for them to close. That is why I called for an annual audit of LGBT+ venues and, together with my Night Czar Amy Lamé, we will do all we can to halt the closures of these precious venues and encourage others to open.”

London’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé, said: “The findings of today’s report are alarming but we are already taking action at City Hall to step in whenever we hear a venue is in trouble. I’m proud that we have been able to help Molly Moggs, soon to become The Compton Cross, to get back on its feet and safeguarded its future for London’s LGBT+ community.

“I want to say loud and clear – if you own or visit an LGBT+ venue which you believe is in trouble, reach out to me before it’s too late. I am also calling on all venue operators, developers, pub companies and others to sign up to the Mayor’s LGBT+ Venue Charter and show that you are committed to keeping our precious venues open and thriving. I hope that together, we can stem the tide of LGBT+ venue closures and maintain London’s reputation as a global capital of diversity.”

The Mayor provided UCL Urban Laboratory with £10,000 funding to carry out this audit of LGBT+ spaces in the capital, as part of their wider research into the capital’s LGBT+ nightlife.

Dr Ben Campkin, Director of UCL Urban Laboratory, said: “Our research evidences the rich variety of LGBTQ+ night-time venues in London and the continuing need for these spaces, which serve an important range of functions for neighbourhood and community life, culture and wellbeing.

“Over the period of the study, a large number of venues have succumbed to changes of use, development, and the inability of operators and customers to defend themselves against rent increases and unfavourable changes to their terms of lease. Looking at the fine-grain, women’s and BAME-specific LGBTQ+ spaces, already under-represented, have been disproportionately affected. There is an ongoing lack of established premises run by and for women, trans people and people of colour – even while there are long-standing and new events that move from venue to venue and serve important social functions for these groups.

“The qualitative and quantitative evidence we have collated disputes unsubstantiated but often repeated claims that LGBTQ+ spaces are no longer needed, or have been replaced by digital apps, which tend only to serve small sections of these communities. Where they have survived, LGBTQ+ spaces are extremely valuable – addressing quite different needs to ‘LGBTQ+ friendly’ spaces – and the consequences of closures are acutely felt. We therefore welcome the Mayor and Night Czar’s actions and have made a series of recommendations for how LGBTQ+ venues can be protected and nurtured into the future.”

Co-founder of the Marylebone Leisure Group and Marmalade Pub Company, Lawrence Santi said: “Together with Ei Group, we fully recognise the importance of Molly Moggs’ LGBTQ+ status for local people. As such we’ve been working closely with Amy Lamé, to ensure when we reopen the venue as The Compton Cross, serving our hand-made selection of infused spirits and liqueurs, it continues to be a fully inclusive and welcoming venue for all members of the local community and visitors to the area. We’re very excited to be operating an iconic pub in the heart of Soho and look forward to welcoming guests.”

The interactive map includes a function for Londoners to tell us about LGBT+ venues that they know have opened or closed, which will help to understand the full picture across the capital*.

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive, Stonewall, said: ‘Within the last decade, we’ve seen almost half of London’s lesbian, gay, bi and trans venues close down. Many of these venues are steeped in LGBT history and serve as a much-need safe space for members of a community that still faces the very real threat of discrimination and bigotry in other pubs, bars and clubs. We’re delighted to see City Hall continue to address these issues, now with its Five-Point Pledge for LGBT+ safe spaces, and look forward to seeing how it makes London’s nightlife more inclusive and safe for all LGBT people.’

ENDS

Notes to editors

*To access the LGBT+ venues map, visit: http://maps.london.gov.uk/lgbtq/ - to see the percentage changes since 2006

More information is available at: www.london.gov.uk/lgbtvenues

The full report can be viewed on UCL Urban Laboratory’s website at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/docs/LGBTQ_cultural_infrastructure_in_London_nightlife_venues_2006_to_the_present.pdf

 

Mayor’s LGBT+ Venue Charter

 

1.         A visible rainbow flag should be displayed on the outside of the venue

  • The rainbow flag is a universal symbol of the LGBT+ community.
  • The symbol could be displayed as an actual flag or alternatively a sign, sticker or other physical signifier.

 

2.         The venue should be marketed as an LGBT+ venue

  • This will be an integral part of the venue’s business plan.
  • Marketing needs to effectively reach the LGBT+ community e.g. through social media, print and digital journals, blogs and other relevant websites.
  • Many LGBT+ venues display LGBT+ magazines/literature/posters in the venue itself.
  • Venues will engage in community outreach, such as hosting events around significant dates like Pride.

 

3.         The venue will provide a welcoming, accessible and safe environment for all

  • The venue will welcome anyone regardless of background or identity, religion, race/ethnicity, gender identity or expression, disability, age or sexual orientation.
  • The venue will be accessible to disabled people, in line with legislation[1]
  • The management will consider adopting gender neutral toilets. Stonewall has published guidance[2] on this.

 

4.         Management and staff should be LGBT+ friendly

  • Door and bar staff will create a welcoming and safe environment
  • Door and bar staff will be LGBT+ friendly. There are LGBT+ friendly security firms in London who provide licensed security staff (many of whom are LGBT+ individuals themselves). There are also relevant training providers.

 

5.         Programming should be LGBT+ focused

  • Where the venue programmes regular entertainment, this should be principally LGBT+ focused.

 

[1] The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published guidance for businesses at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/equality-law-hotels-restaurants-cafés-and-pubs

[2] Accessible at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/trans_inclusive_policies_and_benefits_2016.pdf

 

About Ei Managed Investments

Ei Managed Investments is Ei Group plc’s business which partners with some of the best operators in the pub industry to support a more complex retail offer. The business is based on a series of partnerships which combine the strong pipeline of sites, and buying power and support of the larger Group, with the specialist retail expertise and experience of the individual managed operators. 

Ei Managed Investments is partnered with eight industry-leading managed house operators, of which The Marylebone Leisure Group with the Marmalade Pub Company is one. Other expert partners include Rupert Clevely with Hippo Inns, Karen Jones with Frontier Pubs, and Peter Borg-Neal with Hunky Dory Pubs.

 

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