London Mayor gives grants to help save 11 LGBT+ venues hit by coronavirus
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced emergency funding for some of London’s LGBT+ venues struggling with COVID-19.
The grants, totalling £128,500, are spread over 11 venues. They include the historic Royal Vauxhall Tavern cabaret venue and nightclub Fire.
The venues get between £5,000 and £23,000 each. Khan’s office says the funds will help short-term with rent, staffing and supplier costs.
However, another venue owner, Jeremy Joseph from leading bar and nightclub operator G-A-Y, has dismissed the grants.
He labels them a ‘token gesture’. And he told GSN that Khan let down London’s night time economy by backing the new 10pm curfew on venues which the government argues will help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Instead he argues venues may need to unite and rebel against the government’s coronavirus rules.
‘Chance of survival’
Announcing the grants today, the Mayor of London’s office notes the pandemic has been ‘catastrophic for LGBTQ+ venues’.
Moreover, it promises further City Hall funding in the coming months.
The £128,500 is out of £225,000 the mayor set aside for LGBT+ venues. That in turn is part of his £2.3million emergency fund for London’s culture and creative industries.
Mayor Khan, said: ‘I am so proud to be the mayor of a city which embraces openness and diversity.
‘The pandemic has had a significant impact on our LGBTQ+ venues, which we know play a vital role in supporting the community, acting as a safe haven where they can feel comfortable and free to be who they are.
‘That’s why we’ve been working hard to protect these spaces. City Hall is providing investment and support at a critical time for our venues to help secure a future for our vibrant LGBTQ+ scene across the capital.’
Moreover the mayor’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé, a stalwart of the LGBT+ scene, added:
‘LGBTQ+ venues provide a welcoming space for the community as well as employment for thousands of Londoners.
‘They support an ecosystem of talent that includes performers, DJs and promoters. This fund has been a lifeline for LGBTQ+ venues following the massive blow from the coronavirus pandemic and gives them a chance of survival as we move forward.’
‘Losing money every day’
However, not everyone agrees.
Jeremy Joseph owns the G-A-Y Bar, G-A-Y Late and the legendary Heaven nightclub in London as well as a venue in Manchester.
He says the grants would make little difference to him. He needs £127,000 to cover three months rent for G-A-Y Bar alone.
Moreover, he says Khan is trying to placate venues who are angry about him supporting the new 10pm curfew.
The government rule forces all English venues to close at the same time – at least an hour earlier than normal. However, experts have debated its logic, saying the hospitality industry is mostly COVID-secure and is not contributing to Britain’s rise in coronavirus diagnoses.
Joseph said: ‘These grants are token gestures. It just doesn’t touch the sides. These grants kind of paper over what’s going on.
‘This is all to cover up the anger the LGBT venues feel towards Sadiq.
‘He’s been a huge supporter of the night time economy and LGBT venues and then suddenly last week he supported the 10pm curfew and he never contacted us about it.’
Instead, he says the mayor and the government should have worked with the hospitality industry to find other solutions.
Joseph added: ‘I sat in a meeting with the mayor’s office six days before the 10pm curfew came in. This government scientific advisor was there and said the curfew was not happening. Five days later it happened. You can’t trust anyone.
‘Now we are losing money every day. It has really impacted us in a bad way. Whether things will improve with people changing the times they are going out, it is too soon to say.’
Time for rebellion
Joseph predicts LGBT+ venues will keep fighting. But he says the government keeps changing the rules and sometimes only gives venues a few hours before new laws come into force.
He said: ‘Just yesterday they limited the sound level to 85 decibels. Music must be set at a level where customers don’t have to raise their voice.
‘If people don’t wear a mask in the venue, we will get fined, if people are dancing, we will get fined. Now we are at even more risk.
‘Venues have spent thousands of pounds to make their venues safe. This is not fair.’
Indeed, he’s now at a stage where he would support venues breaking the rules to challenge government decision making he says is knee-jerk and not based on fact.
He says the rebellion would work if venues joined together:
‘On one day next week, we all open up, we stay open. One venue can’t do it on its own because the police would just come. But they can’t close every venue.
‘It’s not about putting people at risk. We want everyone to be safe. We have gone beyond to make our venues safe. Why can’t they judge us based on what we’re doing? Then maybe the venues that haven’t been following the rules could be stopped and we can stay open.
‘Right now, I think we will see venues go and it’s very, very sad. People are fighting to keep their businesses. We are fighting but it’s a continuous losing battle.’
Despite this, some venues are grateful for the small respite the mayor’s grant may give them.
The coronavirus crisis has compounded a tough period for London’s LGBT+ scene. The number of LGBTQ+ venues fell from 124 in 2006 to just 47 in 2017.
Owner of West Five Bar in Ealing, Bal Sidhu, said:
‘LGBTQ+ venues are very important to provide a venue open to all yet importantly remain a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
‘The entertainment industry has been struggling with more and more venues closing down or being replaced with residential units which could lead to certain arts and niche cabaret being lost in the UK, which would be a real shame.
‘In these testing times the support of the London Mayor and Safer sound team has been a tremendous lifeline in improving cash flow with easily accessible grants.
‘This has helped us create a buffer to be able to establish payment plans. This truly gave venue owners who are mostly individuals and not necessarily part of larger organisations, some much needed light at the end of the tunnel.’
The following venues have received grants from the mayor:
- Bar CMYK: £6,500
- Circa Club: £10,000
- Dalston Superstore: £10,000
- Eagle: £9,000
- Fire: £23,000
- George & Dragon: £8,000
- New Bloomsbury Set: £10,000
- RVT: £14,000
- The Glory: £15,000
- VFD: £5,000
- West Five Bar: £18,000
Published on GayStarNews Read the original article
Author: Tris Reid-Smith