Operators offer tips for running LGBTQ+ venue

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Safe space: Inclusivity, community and entertainment key to LGBTQ+ venues (Getty/Ladanifer)
Safe space: Inclusivity, community and entertainment key to LGBTQ+ venues (Getty/Ladanifer)

Related tags Social responsibility LGBTQ+ London Manchester Bar

Community, entertainment, and inclusivity must come first when running a successful LGBTQ+ venue reveal operators, with the rise in homophobic hate crimes over the pandemic stressing the need for safe spaces.

From January to August last year, at least 14,670 homophobic hate crime offences were recorded, compared with 11,841 in same period of 2020 and 10,817 in 2019, according to data obtained by PA Media news agency. 

In the same time period, police recorded 2,129 transphobic offences - a marked increase from the 1,606 offences in 2020 and 1,602 in 2019. 

These figures show the need for LGBTQ+ spaces is far from over, and highlight the importance of protecting existing LGBTQ+ venues with 58% shutting their doors from 2006 to 2007. 

Core Values

Safety first:​ For owner of the Ku Group, which consists of five LGBTQ+ London venues, Gary Henshaw, it was important for LGBTQ+ venues to create a culture of trust for everyone. “LGBTQ+ spaces are safe spaces for the community to come to,” he said.  

“We try and be as diverse as possible: my staff range from heterosexual, right through to non-binary staff and trans staff, and that diversity is reflected in the customer base. Everyone knows who I am, and I know everybody by name”. 

Keep goodwill with neighbours:​ Co-owner of the London-based LGBTQ+ pub the Apple Tree, central London, Lucy Fenton was “absolutely sure” homophobia played a role in the loss of LGBTQ+ venues during the past decade, with neighbours complaining to landlords about LGBTQ+ venues, creating issues for the tenants.  

She said: “If you don't have the community support of your neighbours, it can get tricky to maintain your space. We've done quite a lot of local community outreach, and I’m sure some other surviving venues have done the same. People like to meet to you face to face as well. It’s about trying to keep that goodwill with your neighbours”. 

Maintaining entertainment

Diversify offering​: Fenton also advised operators to diversify the events offered to pull from all sectors of the community.  

She said: “You’ll find very few venues are just open for drinking; everybody has some kind of performance or bingo night, so the industry is getting more and more experience driven. 

“If you’re going to get people to leave their houses and spend a significant amount of money, then you've got to offer them something fun and entertaining that they're not necessarily going to be able to do from home”. 

The Apple Tree has run events ranging from queer parenting talks, to drag queen events and dance nights, and is hoping to open a cinema room downstairs come spring.  

Each event caters to a different subsection of the LGBTQ+ community: “It's important for generations of LGBTQ+ people to mix, because there's so much history involved, and so much standing on the shoulders of those who've gone before,” said Fenton. 

Protect sales:​ Owner of Manchester lesbian bar Vanilla, Steph Little, said: “Make sure you protect sales, because we're all in competition with each other at the end of the day. The more you do for your customers and the better space you provide for them, the more they’re going to return”. 

Community focus:​ For Jimmy Smith, general manager of LGBTQ+ pub the Two Brewers in Clapham, south London, it's all about the community. "We should unite to be so much more than just a pub or a venue," he said.

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