The promoter of Britain's biggest gay club night has caused controversy by suggesting young female fans would not be welcome at a performance by X Factor boy band One Direction
Visitors to London's gay district, Soho, may have been surprised on Saturday to see the streets thronging with hoards of young teenage girls. They were there not to sample the gay tourism or tuck into an exuberant plate of Chinese food, but with the heart-racing hope of obtaining a G-A-Y wristband to see boy band sensation One Direction.
Jeremy Joseph, the promoter of Britain's biggest gay nightlife brand G-A-Y, had booked the X-factor stars for his Saturday club night at Heaven. But Joseph, who scheduled his birthday party to coincide with the gig, appeared to be concerned that G-A-Y's trademark atmosphere, a camp nightlife funworld that provides a safe place for gay people to go out, would be affected by the influx of One Direction's predominantly young straight female fan base.
He said on Twitter on Saturday: "My birthday wish is for little girls to realise that G-A-Y is a lesbian and gay club so there's only one direction and that's no direction for them". In another tweet, he said: "hoping the name G-A-Y, isnt too Subtle???? It's G-A-Y not Str8".
Amongst a clamour of birthday tweets for Joseph, outraged articles started to emerge. One came from popular gay blogger Electro Queer who told his readers: "Excluding our straight brothers and sisters from a concert is just plain wrong. The fact that Joseph can discriminate based on sexuality is preposterous and as a gay community we have allowed it to go on too long."
A straight female blogger expressed disappointment that Joseph "doesn't want me anywhere near his club" despite the fact that "I love the people and the general scene at G-A-Y."
Club-goer Holly Vennell, 21, and her girlfriend, were refused entry on Saturday night. Vennell, who was not there specifically to see One Direction, told me: "We were turned away because it was too busy to go in and that it was members only, but then the door staff continued to let less 'femme' lesbians in. We spoke to some and they weren't members."
It has been illegal since 2007 in Britain to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. Today, a gay couple won compensation after they were turned away from a B&B. But gay venues can legally turn away anyone they believe risk behaving in an threatening way towards lesbians and gays.
I'm not suggesting that G-A-Y operates a discriminatory door policy, and whatever Vennell's perception of why she and her girlfriend was refused entry, there may have been legitimate reasons for doing so. And G-A-Y does state on its website that priority is given to members. But Joseph's tweets raise a thorny issue for gay venues and their promoters.
Joseph is a popular and admired personality within the gay community, known for his ongoing charitable efforts. He deserves praise for helping to shape and maintain London's vibrant and pioneering gay scene, for decades giving the gay community one of its biggest assets.
Where so many have failed, Joseph has succeeded, and running the world's flagship gay night is clearly no cruise in the park. Gay clubbers in the past have abandoned venues that become "too straight" – Manchester's Canal Street during the 1990s is a good example of this.
Joseph has a right to protect his brand's identity from being diluted, and private clubs do have the right to refuse entry for a plethora of given reasons without explanation. In the 1980s one of London's gay haunts the Blitz, made famous by its unusual cloakroom boy – a certain George Alan O'Dowd – controversially turned people away if they weren't attractive enough.
But if a gay bar wants to keep a gay majority inside, how can it go about enforcing that legally on the doors when the scheduled acts have an appeal that exceeds the perimeters of the desired clientele?
As Saturday was one of One Direction's first performances since their defeat in the X-Factor final, it comes as no surprise that plenty of girls would try to attend, especially when entry was priced at a rock-bottom £4. Sadly though, Joseph's tactics on Twitter appear to have upset some people in the gay community.
Vennel said she could understand the tough decision: "I can see why he wanted to keep so many One Direction fans out, but it's so frustrating, especially as there's no clear door policy. We're not very sceney lesbians, so it's usually a fun treat when we go out. I just felt so embarrassed, with everyone laughing at us."
Naturally G-A-Y has a duty to serve the gay community first, and a straight crowd could damage Joseph's hard-won and long-established brand. Does the answer lie in not booking acts as massively mainstream as One Direction? Being such a recent phenomena, voted for by millions and with a colossal fan base of straight girls it was predictable that booking One Direction might raise a dilemma.
Central London is increasingly rivalled by less commercial and more alternative gay scenes in other parts of the city like Shoreditch and Vauxhall that spare gay clubbers some of this social pressure.
To seamlessly run a club that offers a minority the most mainstream entertainment obtainable is a commendable effort, but near impossible. If all attendees at Heaven had to be paid members, or were given loyalty cards, would this be a better system, alleviating the pressure on door staff?
G-A-Y has always held the gay community's best interests at its heart, and thousands would reaffirm Joseph's slogan on Twitter "Addicted to the drug that is G-A-Y".
But as Britain's flagship gay club, discriminating against straight people would be a disappointing and unacceptable side-effect of that drug, a direction that few would celebrate.
We asked Jeremy Joseph for a comment before publication, but he asked to see the piece first. If he decides to comment later, we'll post it here. After we contacted him, he posted this on Twitter: "Dont U just love the press & how they want to write article based on a tweet, misinterpreting that tweet & wonder why u dont want 2 comment."