The Friends of the Joiners Arms campaign was given a boost this week after Tower Hamlets Council confirmed that the replacement of the popular gay bar in east London must include a late-license LGBTQ+ venue.
Developers are building luxury flats on the site and had agreed to include a gay pub in the new complex – but had proposed it close at midnight.
The council’s intervention to insist on later opening hours to match those of the outgoing Joiners Arms is believed to be the first time a planning condition has contained the sexual orientation of a venue’s target market.
Amy Roberts, co-chair of Friends of the Joiners Arms, said: “This is an important victory for the LGBTQ+ community, not just in Tower Hamlets, but across the whole of London.
“It feels like we are turning the tide of LGBTQ+ closures across the capital, and we look forward to a future venue which can serve our diverse communities.”
— Tower Hamlets (@TowerHamletsNow) October 16, 2017
John Biggs, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I am pleased that following consultation with the developers, the GLA and the Friends of the Joiners Arms, the development committee has granted planning permission for an LGBTQ+ venue at the site of the Joiners Arms.
“Tower Hamlets is leading the way in reversing the decline in LGBTQ+ venues which we have seen across London. As a council we want to celebrate the great diversity in the borough, and are committed to serving the needs of all our communities.”
This decision follows a report released in July which shows that London has lost 58% of its LGBT venues over the past years. And Tower Hamlets has lost 7 of its 10 LGBT venues since 2006.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “These shocking figures show that more than half of the capital’s LGBT+ venues have closed down in the last decade and urgent action needs to be taken. I want London’s LGBT+ community to feel truly valued, happy and safe in our great city and know how important these spaces are to its wellbeing.”
Tower Hamlets council had rejected developer Regal Homes’s initial application to reopen the Joiners Arms as a gay pub that closed at midnight, which was considered not close enough to the original bar.
Now, the company has approved the plan that allows the venue stay open until 2am on Sunday -Wednesday nights, 3am on Thursday and Friday, and 4am on Saturday.
Peter Cragg, campaigner for Friends of the Joiners Arms, said: “Planning officers initially wanted the venue to close at midnight on weekends and 11pm on weeknights. But councillors shared our concerns that everything fun happens after midnight – and, more seriously, that the late-night nature of the venue provided so much of the benefit to our community.
“In safeguarding an LGBTQ+ venue for the next quarter of a century, and removing proposed limits to opening hours, we are pleased that the council and the developer have agreed with us that the community needs a space to express ourselves, to drink, dance, love and learn.”