Walking through the doors for the first time was an incredible experience. It was the most eclectic group of people I had ever witnessed in one room and it was fabulous. It was a place of eccentricity, excitement and energy, somewhere I could feel comfortable to be me.
I spent a lot of time in that pub over the next five years and I made friends for life, many of which I call my chosen family.
Now whenever I go back, I feel as though I’m coming home. That’s what makes LGBTQ spaces so special, they create a community of likeminded people who genuinely support each other.
'Sanctuary' after 18 months isolated
Fifteen years later and the role of LGBTQ venues within the community is more important than ever.
After 18 months of isolation, or worse trapped in a place where you can’t be your true self, the LGBTQ pubs, bars and clubs in towns and cities across the country offer a sanctuary for many of us.
But they are at risk. Even before the pandemic LGBTQ venues were on the decline, with a 58% drop in London LGBTQ venues between 2006 and 2017.
Switchboard LGBT+ recently reported a 20% increase in calls during the pandemic, an indicator of the challenges the community is facing being locked away, and with the number of safe places for the community to escape to shrinking it could be devastating to the LGBTQ community.
Need for safe spaces
At Greene King I am part of the LGBTQ network, The Village Greene, and while we do have some dedicated LGBTQ venues, including the fantastic City of Quebec in Marylebone, London, we have recently launched support packages to help any and all of our 1,600 pubs host their own LGBTQ events.
We have launched our support to coincide with Pride month, however our support goes beyond June and our pubs are encouraged to book their events throughout the year.
We’ve got pubs up and down the country in the big cities through to small towns and neighbourhoods, so by encouraging our pubs to run LGBTQ events we’re playing a role in providing safe spaces in more areas for the community to come together.
This is another step we are taking as part of our overall Inclusion and Diversity journey and agenda.
We might not be able to single-handedly stem the decline of LGBTQ venues, but we can help our pubs create friendly spaces for all diverse groups through tailored events across the country.