A shocking new report has found that London's LGBT+ venues are in crisis, with more than half closing their doors over the last decade.
The report, published by University College London Urban Laboratory, shows that there are 53 LGBT+ venues in operation in the country's capital - down from 127 in 2006.
More venues remain at risk of closing, the report warns.
The London borough with the most closures is Islington, with 80% of its LGBT+ venues disappearing since 2006. Camden and Westminster both lost 43% of theirs.
Rising business rates and rents are singled out as reasons for the closures, alongside external influences like large-scale developments and a lack of safeguarding measures within the existing planning system.
Several high-profile LGBT+ venues have closed their doors over the last few years, including The Black Cap in Camden and The Joiner's Arms in Tower Hamlets.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has made safeguarding London's nightlife a priority, has announced a series of measures to attempt to curb the closures. These include the role of London's Night Czar, Amy Lamé, who will act as a mediator between venue owners and City Hall, and encouraging venue owners to sign up to a new LGBT+ Venue Charter.
The LGBT+ Venue Charter 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."
The charter, as endorsed by Stonewall, Pride in London, and UK Black Pride, is as follows:
- A visible rainbow flag should be displayed on the outside of the venue
- The venue should be marketed as an LGBT+ venue
- The venue will provide a welcoming, accessible and safe environment for all
- Management and staff should be LGBT+ friendly
- Programming should be LGBT+ focused
The Marmalade Pub Company, which operates Molly Moggs in Soho, is the first signatory to the charter.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that he holds LGBT+ venues in "very high regard" and affirms his commitment to protecting them. "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."
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.
Lamé urges those in the scene to call on her for assistance: “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.”
Stonewall's Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt, 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."
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