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Vauxhall: Drugs crackdown may kill gay scene

Vauxhall: Drugs crackdown may kill gay scene

The council in Vauxhall is bringing in a new licensing policy to crack down on drugs, which may end up killing the gay scene.

Gay Star News can exclusively reveal the real story of the new policy that many have feared could be the death knell for the south London nightlife.

The area, popular with the mid-20s crowd, is one of the most visited in London for gay clubs and bars.

But with two gay clubs, Fire and Area, operating a 24-hour license the council is concerned about the ‘culture’ this creates.

There have been a series of deaths due to GHB, a bad batch of drugs, and others linked to the Vauxhall gay scene.

The policy will restrict all new licenses so all clubs and bars will close at 2am. While this will not affect current licenses, it will affect them if they are renewed.

When the council revealed they were considering the policy earlier this month, it led to some accusing Vauxhall of playing ‘dirty tricks’ to oust the gay community.

Gay nightclub site DiscoDamaged claimed the council was attempting to ‘homocleanse’ the area to make way for new developments from foreign embassies.

Guy Irwin, owner of gay bar The Hoist, told GSN it felt like there was ‘scaremongering’ about a policy to deal with a very simple issue.

He said: ‘It’s not an attempt to oust gay or lesbian businesses.

‘It’s an attempt to deal with a problem that has run out of control in the last year.

‘It relates to drugs, basically. I don’t believe it’s an attempt to remove longstanding businesses.’

Councillor Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for safer and stronger neighborhoods, told GSN the council was supportive of all well-managed gay bars and clubs.

He said: ‘However if their operations bring drug dealing, anti-social behavior or nuisance to an area, or put the customers’ safety at risk and they are either unwilling or unable to stop it then we have a responsibility to residents and other businesses to intervene.

‘There are loads of well run businesses in Vauxhall which do not cause problems, but the 24 hour clubbing culture from a very small minority of clubs is a culture which other businesses and residents, as well as the Police and Health agencies, strongly feel is not positive for Vauxhall.’

He also confirmed there should be no concerns about moving the gay community out to bring in new developers.

Network Rail, which owns the arches where many of the gay bars and clubs operates, could only force out a business if it was redeveloping its transport links, like a new train line, or its infrastructure, like putting in a new escalator. It could not replace one business with another.

But while Fire appears to be safe, its customers have concerns the council could force the club’s license to be renewed.

If the council could prove anti-social behaviour and drug use was related to that club specifically, it could lodge a complaint in the courts to force them to renew their license.

This would likely mean Fire would have to close at 2am – a move likely to destroy its business.

Steve, a regular clubber, told GSN: ‘This is a massive shame for London’s gay scene and I don’t see what purpose it will have. Gay clubs will just have to find a new home.’

His partner Andy described it as ‘ridiculous’.

‘It’s not even a residential area, particularly by Area. It doesn’t seem like it will serve any purpose apart from penalizing the gay community,’ he added.

Verity Mayes, head of events and promotion at Fire and Area, said she would be ‘surprised’ if the council tried to impose their new policy on their clubs.

She said: ‘We really do not see this happening, if it does it would have a devastating effect on London’s favorite gay venue and the surrounding businesses that depend on Fire to bring money to the local area.

‘Unfortunately even in this day and age there are homophobes in every walk of life.

‘We have found the vast majority of people from the police and council to be supportive.

‘If for any reason we felt that any of our venues were targeted for being gay, we would fight to bring any bigot to justice.’

Hopkins added: ‘This is not an attack on the LGBT community or its bars.

‘What this policy will do is put down a marker saying a 24 hour clubbing economy is not what the council wants in Vauxhall or anywhere across the borough.

‘If any club wishes to stay open later, we want to work with them to ensure it will not affect the local businesses and residents. It will set a high threshold on being responsible.’