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Gay couple ‘kicked out of Soho pub for kissing’

Gay couple ‘kicked out of Soho pub for kissing’

by Ade Bradley14 Apr 2011
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The John Snow pub, Soho, found itself at the heart of a Twitter storm for kicking out a gay couple.

Two men say they were asked to leave a pub in Soho on Wednesday night for kissing while on a date. Despite protestations from other patrons at the John Snow pub, which is owned by the Samuel Smith brewery, the couple say they were manhandled and forcibly removed from the premises. No one at the brewery was available for comment this morning.

One of the couple, 26-year-old Jonathan Williams, posted a tweet about the incident late on Wednesday. This morning he gave So So Gay his account of what happened.

Jonathan Williams says he was kicked out of a pub for a kiss. Photograph: Katherine Williams (used with permission)

‘Halfway through the first drink in the pub, a slightly drunken man approached us somewhat politely asking us to stop kissing. Because he had turned to face us to ask us to stop, I politely suggested he turn around instead. He then claimed to be the landlord, but since he was holding a pint, was visibly intoxicated and was standing on the customers’ side of the bar we took little notice.

‘Later, when we were kissing – not in any confrontational way, but simply on the mouth – a uniformed member of staff approached us. She said she was the publican, but refused to give us her name, or to give her name to the people sitting next to us when they asked. She told us we had to leave, to which we replied that we had no intention to.’ Williams alleges that he was then manhandled by someone in the bar and told to leave.

‘After more arguing, raised voices and our repeatedly asking for the woman’s name, we relented when a person claiming to be a plainclothes officer showed me something that looked like a badge. I’m not sure if it was, looking back, but he also gave us what he claimed was his badge number and his name. At that point we left, me shaking with anger and James furious.

‘From what I understand through Twitter, the people sitting next to us then challenged that we’d been kicked out and were also asked to leave. ‘

Williams said he would not be leaving the incident there. ‘I plan to go back tonight and find out who the on-duty manager was,’ he told us. ‘I’ll also write a letter of complaint to head office as soon as I can, asking if they really think it’s wise to be removing people for harmless public displays of affection in a bar that is right in the heart of the city’s gay district.’

By Thursday morning there had been a strong reaction on Twitter, with posts by well-followed tweeters including actor Emma Kennedy and Times columnist Caitlin Moran. So So Gay asked the Samuel Smith brewery, which owns the pub, for comment, but no-one was available.

This follows a similar incident in 2010, when The Greencoat Boy pub in Westminster asked an LGBT Group to leave the pub. The resulting media and Twitter storm resulted in a full apology and compensation from owners Punch Taverns. So So Gay will continue to monitor this story, and will bring you updates as it develops.

Tom Wicker has responded to commenters who suggest that gay couples should avoid kissing in straight bars – ‘What price a kiss?’

UPDATED: This article has been amended since it was originally published.

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About The Author
Profile photo of Ade Bradley
Ade Bradley
A Gay Jewish Dyspraxic Atheist from Northwest London, exiled to Clapham, who likes ticking boxes. Addicted to plays and musicals and a big fan of stand up comedy - will tell you about how he could have been a famous radio star if you get him drunk.
40 comments
Sean Stevens
Sean Stevens

There is no question that pub landlords are perfectly free to throw out customers. You are a guest in the licencee's establishment. When asked to do (or not do) something and you refuse, a request to leave is to be expected. It was not discriminatory...they were not refused service on the grounds of sexuality, nor discriminated, they were merely asked not to continue an activity! They failed to comply with the request and it's their own fault.

There is not a right to kiss, or kiss in public.

Sean Stevens
Sean Stevens

There is no question that pub landlords are perfectly free to throw out customers. You are a guest in the licencee's establishment. When asked to do (or not do) something and you refuse, a request to leave is to be expected. It was not discriminatory...they were not refused service on the grounds of sexuality, nor discriminated, they were merely asked not to continue an activity! They failed to comply with the request and it's their own fault.

There is not a right to kiss, or kiss in public.

Orange Lucozade
Orange Lucozade

Speaking as a "straight" I am disgusted by some of the separatist attitudes here, it does not matter if it was a gay or straight venue, the intolerance cannot be tolerated- he had a right to a personal display of affection in line with any other person, it's pretty clear he did not. A fuss should be made, bigots should be shamed, and the battle should be fought on every front until it no longer matters to anyone.

MarkyMark
MarkyMark

Under the Equality Act anyone, gay or straight, subsequently thrown out of the pub for protesting to the landlady about her action ALSO has a valid claim of discrimination against the pub. I would strongly encourage those others who were kicked out after challenging what happened to consider legal action and claim damages.

James Bull
James Bull

The fact is, we did tone it down. It was very literally a peck as we were getting ready to leave that brought the two publicans and off-duty-officer down on us. I'm sorry if that offends any of you but I am not sorry for giving my date a quick kiss on the lips.

HH
HH

Jonathan and James need to calm down and use some common sense. They had dozens of gay venues to choose from within a very short walking distance, so why pick an obviously straight pub? This has all the hallmarks of the recent story about the gay couple that sued the B&B owners - it sounds like a complete set-up and does the gay 'community' no favours at all. And yes, I'm gay.

HH
HH

Jonathan and James need to calm down and use some common sense. They had dozens of gay venues to choose from within a very short walking distance, so why pick an obviously straight pub? This has all the hallmarks of the recent story about the gay couple that sued the B&B owners - it sounds like a complete set-up and does the gay 'community' no favours at all. And yes, I'm gay.

Gareth Evans
Gareth Evans

I would like to be able to stand up as an openly gay man and say this was discrimination or blatant homophobia, but I don't believe it was either.

First, we have to remember that the pub in question is a straight pub. Secondly, we have to remember that some people are uncomfortable with public displays of affection in any environment - I, for one, do not want to walk down the street and see two people trying to ingest each other's last meals, much in the same way I object to people spitting out great puddles of phlegm. It's given that you would expect to see gay couples kissing in a gay venue, but not in a straight bar. And by being confrontational with the staff and clientele is almost inviting the couple to be queer bashed. Not every member of society is tolerant of other's situations - we only have to cast our minds back to the Admiral Duncan for a painful reminder of that.

The fact that the John Snow is in Soho is irrelevant - so are a lot of other straight pubs and - more importantly - dozens of gay venues where this would not have been an issue. I think the couple in question should show other members of society the same level of tolerance as they expect themselves. This article does the couple no favours - they just come across as a pair of whiny queens throwing their toys out of their prams.

Frank
Frank

It is often not a case of discrimination, rather the simple fact that punters and bar staff alike can't stand Public Display's of Affection.

In my uni years, as a bar man, I told untold hundreds of gay and straight couples to stop kissing in various pubs and bars I worked in. All were of the belief that PDA's (and 'snogging' defo qualifies) was not appropriate for the bar. They'd get a couple of warnings (light hearted, then a bit more serious) and most people sheepishly agreed to calm their passions. I didn't always agree with the decision, but it was a blanket ban on 'heavy petting' across the sexual spectrum.

The initial argument is a non-story, really. The facts are vague and seem sketchy at best. It is likely to be blown out of all propotion by the Twittersphere and lazy journos looking to fill space and tick boxes.

The landlord does sound like a dick, mind, although I like the Snow as it's cheap and a great location. It won't stop me drinking there.

Frank
Frank

It is often not a case of discrimination, rather the simple fact that punters and bar staff alike can't stand Public Display's of Affection.

In my uni years, as a bar man, I told untold hundreds of gay and straight couples to stop kissing in various pubs and bars I worked in. All were of the belief that PDA's (and 'snogging' defo qualifies) was not appropriate for the bar. They'd get a couple of warnings (light hearted, then a bit more serious) and most people sheepishly agreed to calm their passions. I didn't always agree with the decision, but it was a blanket ban on 'heavy petting' across the sexual spectrum.

The initial argument is a non-story, really. The facts are vague and seem sketchy at best. It is likely to be blown out of all propotion by the Twittersphere and lazy journos looking to fill space and tick boxes.

The landlord does sound like a dick, mind, although I like the Snow as it's cheap and a great location. It won't stop me drinking there.

Scott Westron
Scott Westron

Look forward to reading the full story on this.

Hugo
Hugo

How on earth can kissing constitute being offensive? You've just got to ask the question whether it is acceptable for the landlord to have turfed out a black or Jewish couple on the same grounds.

Of course it's not. This is homophobia.

Chris P
Chris P

It's one thing being asked to tone down your behaviour, gay or straight, it's another being made to leave in an agressive and embarassing way.

stuart
stuart

As a gay man i would love to stick up for you here, but after hearing thefull story I can't really blame them for throwing you out.

Not being funny, but if you are in a straight bar and asked to stop kissing then maybe you should of done so. That or left on your own accord and gone somewhere more gay friendly (you were in soho afterall).

Yes I know that it shouldn't matter if you are gay/straight and kissing in any bar, but people in that pub may of choose to drink there because it was a straight bar - if they wanted to see gay people kissing then they would of gone else where.

If the pub/manager was homophobic then you should of takenthe first comment as a cue to take you business elsewhere, not provoke anyone by continuing your actions then expect an apology when asked to leave.

stuart
stuart

As a gay man i would love to stick up for you here, but after hearing thefull story I can't really blame them for throwing you out.

Not being funny, but if you are in a straight bar and asked to stop kissing then maybe you should of done so. That or left on your own accord and gone somewhere more gay friendly (you were in soho afterall).

Yes I know that it shouldn't matter if you are gay/straight and kissing in any bar, but people in that pub may of choose to drink there because it was a straight bar - if they wanted to see gay people kissing then they would of gone else where.

If the pub/manager was homophobic then you should of takenthe first comment as a cue to take you business elsewhere, not provoke anyone by continuing your actions then expect an apology when asked to leave.

Rylan Holey
Rylan Holey

Shame on the publicans at John Snow - one of my favourite pubs in London.

CornwallMatt
CornwallMatt

Lazy single-issue reporting, providing an aggrieved party with a soapbox to air his version of events.

Mr Williams' story is so full of unimportant wishy-washy drivel and so empty of hard fact as to be laughable - he says that he will "write a letter of complaint to head office as soon as [he] can" - I assume that he will find some time after his next round of media interviews is over. It is a great shame that So So Gay is so full of its own self-importance as to publish this story in this form.

I would like to point out that if Mr Williams and his silent partner were entirely innocent in this incident, were not antagonistic or inappropriate, and behaved as model citizens in the face of horrific prejudice from the intoxicated landlord, the nameless publican, and potentially the possible plain-clothed policeman (I'm unable to tell whether he's a goodie or a baddie in this story) then they deserve all the support that we can muster for their campaign.

CornwallMatt
CornwallMatt

Lazy single-issue reporting, providing an aggrieved party with a soapbox to air his version of events.

Mr Williams' story is so full of unimportant wishy-washy drivel and so empty of hard fact as to be laughable - he says that he will "write a letter of complaint to head office as soon as [he] can" - I assume that he will find some time after his next round of media interviews is over. It is a great shame that So So Gay is so full of its own self-importance as to publish this story in this form.

I would like to point out that if Mr Williams and his silent partner were entirely innocent in this incident, were not antagonistic or inappropriate, and behaved as model citizens in the face of horrific prejudice from the intoxicated landlord, the nameless publican, and potentially the possible plain-clothed policeman (I'm unable to tell whether he's a goodie or a baddie in this story) then they deserve all the support that we can muster for their campaign.