In an effort to fight London’s queer nightlife being killed, the planners have told the developers that the inclusion of an LGBT venue on the site is a dealbreaker
Luxury is a word synonymous with London, but it’s also become totally meaningless as developers eat up the city and replace buildings with modern flast that don’t feel very luxury at all. A victim of the city’s aggressive redevelopment has been gay bars, which are closing in London at a devastating rate. The Joiners Arms, a legendary LGBT venue in Hackney, closed in 2015, to the dismay of London’s queer community.
Now, Regal Homes, the company which bought the site a year before the pub closed, wants to build nine (luxury) flats on the site – but has to incorporate an LGBT bar in amongst the flats. Council officials insisted that this condition was included after the area lost 73 per cent of its LGBT venues since 2006. This is the first time a condition such as this has been imposed, and Regal Homes have agreed to give an LGBT operator “first refusal” on a 12-year lease for a new bar.
The council has been working with Amy Lamé, the mayor of London’s night czar, who believes that protecting these venues is key to boosting London’s “night-time economy”. She told Dazed that they “contribute to London's economy, generate stronger and more resilient communities and are vital for many people's freedom of expression”.
Lamé added that “over the past decade, London has lost more than half of its LGBT+ venues. In order to stem this tide of venue closures, urgent action needs to be taken. The Mayor is clear that LGBT+ venues are a fundamental part of London’s vibrant nightlife and culture. That’s why Sadiq has called for an annual audit of LGBT+ venues in the capital and has tasked me with meeting with pub companies, developers, landlords, venue owners and the public to see what can be done to protect these precious spaces and maintain London’s position as a global beacon of diversity”.
“(Sadiq has) tasked me with meeting with pub companies, developers, landlords, venue owners and the public to see what can be done to protect these precious spaces and maintain London’s position as a global beacon of diversity” – Amy Lamé, London’s night czar
Tower Hamlets council has stated that the plans for flats and offices will only get the go ahead if the development includes a pub that will “remain a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused venue for a minimum of 12 years”. Lamé said that they are “working with developers, the local authority and community groups to try to ensure that The Joiner’s Arms is replaced with an LGBT+ venue and saved for the community. With the Night Tube coming to East London by the end of the year, I feel confident that the buzzing night time economy and culture of the area will thrive.”
The mayor, John Biggs, said that Tower Hamlets council is “committed to celebrating our great diversity, which includes serving the needs of our LGBTQ+ community. I am delighted that as a council we are leading the way in using innovative ways to protect spaces such as the Joiners Arms site.” Sadiq Khan has also demanded “urgent action” to halt the decline of LGBT bars, and his office is pushing to protect these venues.
While this is a positive step in the right direction for the protection of gay bars, it’s unclear whether it’ll be enough to motivate LGBT people to actually make use of the venue. Destroying a historicl bar to make way for luxury flats has already angered the community, and considering the new location for the venue, it’s going to difficult to ensure that it’s not as clinical and history-free as the luxury flats surrounding it.