A dedicated space has been pledged for an LGBT+ occupier at a Bankside development following a backlash over the eviction of gay club, XXL.
A granted planning scheme will see Bankside’s Sampson and Ludgate Houses, just off Southwark Street, transformed – but is expected to mean the loss of XXL, a gay club which has been operating since 2000.
40 job losses are expected when the club has its slated final night in its Ludgate House premises on September 21.
Following concerns of the loss of LBGT spaces, developer Native Land said it was “pleased to confirm that the cultural space within our consented scheme at Bankside will be prioritised for a LGBTQ+ occupier.”
It said it would work with the LGBT community and council to find a ‘suitable operator.’
The move was welcomed by Southwark Council, with cabinet member Cllr Johnson Situ saying town hall bosses had “committed to strengthening our policies where necessary to add greater protection for LGBT+ spaces in the future.”
Cllr Situ added the council had been working with XXL to find a new Southwark venue “potentially with a more inclusive and diverse offer for the wider community, in response to concerns expressed by members of the wider LGBTQ+ community about previous conduct and comments.”
But James McNeill, one the club’s co-founders, hit back saying he felt the council had been of little help to the club.
“We are going to close and that’s it. Southwark Council haven’t provided us with any help. We had two emergency meetings. They basically washed their hands of us,” he said.
He pointed to the recent move by Tower Hamlets council to designate Backstreet Bar, a gay ‘leather’ venue an important community asset, and argued Southwark should have made the same move.
Liberal Democrat councillors had also pressed for the council to undertake an equalities impact assessment.
“In Southwark we’ve lost 66% of our LGBTQ+ spaces since 2006. We need the Council and Mayor to protect and promote them,” ward councillor for Borough and Bankside, Victor Chamberlain has previously told the News.
Among controversial comments include a Facebook post in which club co-owner, Mark Ames, said he “couldn’t give a toss” about the rest of the community.
He has since apologised for the post.
A previous incident in which the club refused entry to a man wearing high-heels also sparked controversy in the LGBT community, leading to accusations of prejudice.
However, XXL’s owners have rejected the charge, telling councillors that the high-heels ‘ban’ was a means to prevent insurance claims from people injuring themselves in the venue.