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.
'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.