The Coleherne, which has been catering to homosexuals for a handful of decades, was bought out and rebranded by its new owners in 2008 as The Pembroke. Also noteworthy: The new owners, a venue-flipping outfit called Realpubs, didn’t want the place to be known as a gay club, and worked diligently to send that message. Like seating obviously straight customers up front by the windows, so passersby wouldn’t see the queens and their cocktails. But when gay Coleherne employee Charles Lisboa, 41, applied for and was hired as assistant manager to help with the revamp, he didn’t know what lengths Realpubs’ management would go. Like company director Malcolm Heap and general manager Jimmy Sydney considering putting a sign outside that read, “This is not a gay pub,” an idea Lisboa successfully shot down; or the time Heap told Lisboa to address a couple of gay “queens” for acting all gay and stuff inside the restaurant. Four weeks after his hiring, Lisboa resigned. Then he sued. The London Central Employment Tribunal awarded him £4,500 for unlawful discrimination, but denied his claim that Realpubs fostered a discriminatory workplace environment on the whole. So Lisboa appealed; it worked. The Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld his claim of “constructive dismissal,” concluding that “a policy of embracing diversity and welcoming inclusiveness is laudable; discriminating against gay customers and staff on grounds of their sexual orientation is not,” and that it was “plainly and unarguably the case that gay customers were treated less favourably on the grounds of their sexual orientation.” Lisboa will have more cash coming his way. So let this be a lesson to bougie gay bar flippers: know your audience. And: gays, even the “camp” ones, are better tippers.
This is what the Coleherne looked like in the last century, when it was hoppin’: