bottoms up

Tribunal: London Gay Pub Discriminated Against Gay Customers + Gay Employees

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’:

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  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    I get a kick out of younger queers who say they don’t need gay bars anymore, they would prefer to hang out in “mixed” clubs. This is an example of what club owners think about having queers in their bars.

  • Vince

    Just so ppl know the Coleherne was one of Londons oldest gay bars… frequented by the likes of none other than Oscar Wilde. However I have to be honest the place when I used to live in the area (10yrs ago) wasn’t actually that nice or welcoming to a young guy(20); or str8 ppl for that matter. I think that was part of the issue and why it got flipped. It was a bit of a dive and full of vapid old queens that had nothing better to do but spend the entire day in a pub, hovering over the single pint of beer they would buy; and then bitch all day and make everyone that walked in feel unwelcome.

  • ewe

    I loved HEAVEN.

  • Alan

    @Vince: And it got worse after that. It was down to the hustlers and their clients at the end, according to the Employment Appeals Tribunals’ judgment.

  • andrew

    Freddy Mercury said “imagine the sleaziest pub in the whole world, the Colehurne is worse”

    It cleaned up in the 90’s and I was a regular there. It also had 3 serial killers. It had a long history and it was sad to see it go.

    And yes it was full of vapid old queens, but I love it.

  • andrew

    The Coleherne pub (named after Coleherne Road) began life in 1866, at Old Brompton Road in the heart of the west London Bohemian Quarter. It had a long history of attracting a bohemian clientele before becoming known as a gay pub. A life-long resident of Earls Court Square, Jennifer Ware, recollects as a child being taken there to Sunday lunch in the 1930s, when drag entertainers performed after lunch had finished. It became a gay pub in the mid-fifties.[1] Originally it was segregated into two bars, one for the straight crowd and one for the gay community at a time when homosexuality was illegal. In the 1970s it became a notorious Leather bar, with blacked-out windows, attracting an international crowd including Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett, Rudolf Nureyev, and Anthony Perkins. Leather men wearing chaps and leather jackets with key chains and colour-coded handkerchiefs formed the clientele. The Coleherne was known internationally as a leather bar by 1965 [2] The gay community flourished in Earls Court and many international tourists joined the locals.

    American author Armistead Maupin included references to the Coleherne in his Tales of the City book Babycakes. It is referred to in the lyrics of “Hanging Around” by The Stranglers.

  • jason

    I’m all for all bars being gay-friendly and inclusive of all people. Bars should not cater to one particular sexual orientation.

  • Miss Understood

    If you don’t stop it with those video ads which play automatically I’m going to have to stop reading this blog.

    You are also chasing away all of the people who are reading this at work.

  • paulD

    @Miss Understood: Totally agree! And there’s no way to stop them without turning the volume all the way down. It’s obnoxious, although I doubt it’s going to stop any time soon. Advertising……

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