UK: Council rejects redevelopment proposals for LGBT venue Joiners Arms

Councillors have rejected plans for the redevelopment of the Joiners Arms, an east London pub that has counted designer Alexander McQueen, singer Rufus Wainwright and photographer Wolfgang Tillmans among its clientele, amid concerns that protections for a new LGBT venue on the site do not go far enough to ensure the viability of a new queer space. 

Marc Francis, chair of Tower Hamlets council’s development committee, told developer Regal Homes on Wednesday that its plans had failed to win approval because not enough had been done to ensure that a new LGBT bar would thrive amid the development of offices and luxury flats.

Francis said the council welcomed Regal’s ground-breaking planning proviso to ensure that an LGBT operator had first refusal to rent the space for 12 years, but said: “I’m not persuaded that this goes far enough.”

Over the past decade, London has lost 58% of its LGBT venues as their prime locations have been snapped up by developers, and some clubgoers have abandoned nights out for Grindr, Tinder and other “hookup” apps. Eleven London boroughs, including Harringay and Kensington and Chelsea, have lost all their LGBT bars. Tower Hamlets has lost seven of its 10 LGBT venues since 2006.

Campaigners, who attended the council meeting in T-shirts reading “Long live queer spaces” under rainbow umbrellas, welcomed the council’s decision as a victory for “queer power” and hoped that the developer would meet their demands for a larger, better-equipped venue with a later licence and outdoor smoking area.

Under pressure from the Tower Hamlets council and the mayor of London, the developer had written into its planning application that the development would include a pub that would “remain a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused venue for a minimum of 12 years”. It is believed to be the first time that the sexual orientation of a venue’s target clientele has been included as a condition of planning approval. Read more via the Guardian