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16
Apr

Gay kiss-in outside Soho pub

johnsnow1Several hundred protestors gathered outside the John Snow pub on Broadwick Street, Soho, on the evening of Friday 15 April, to protest against an incident that took place in the pub a couple of nights earlier. A couple of gay men – James Bull, aged 23, and Jonathan Williams, aged 26 – had been out on their first date together. They followed dinner in Covent Garden with a drink at the John Snow – not a gay bar but a well-known Soho pub in one of London’s most gay-friendly areas. The two say that they had kissed, but had been asked to stop by a man at the bar who said that he found it offensive. 

“We were kissing,” says Bull, “and a guy who claimed to be the landlord came over and told us to stop. I don't want to see that. It offends me.”
“We had just kissed. It was nothing obscene. He said if we didn't tone it down, we would have to leave.”
Witnesses sitting nearby have confirmed this version of events. Jamie Morton, 23, from Canary Wharf, said: “I was really shocked. I said: ‘That's outrageous - you can't say that.’” He described the kissing as “innocent”.
Someone else who was allegedly drinking in the bar at the time subsequently called BBC 5 Live to give his version of events. Gary from Richmond, who did not give his surname, said: “I have gay friends and lesbian friends. They were asked by the barman to moderate their behaviour, which they didn’t do. It was more than a short kiss. It was a full on snog.”

Bull and Williams had another drink, but on getting up to leave, Bull says he gave Williams “a quick peck on the lips.” At this point, a women who identified herself as the landlady came over.
“[She] said ‘You need to leave, you're being obscene,’” says Bull. “The man who said he was the landlord grabbed Jonathan by the collar before we left.”
Both men say they were left shaken and upset by the experience. Mr Williams later contacted the police, and the Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident.
News of the incident quickly spread over social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, with many gay people angered that a pub – particularly one on the heart of Soho – should treat two gay men in this fashion. A ‘Kiss-In’ demonstration was quickly arranged, and over 800 people joined a Facebook group pledging to attend. Learning of the planned protest, the management at the John Snow decided to close the pub at 3pm on the day of the protest, which continued to take place. The peaceful demonstration included someone sticking a rainbow flag to the door of the pub, and dozens of gay couples kissing in protest against the homophobia experienced by Bull and Williams. They themselves turned up at the demonstration and answered questions from the assembled TV crews and reporters, although they declined to kiss again for the cameras.
Mr Williams said the turnout had been “absolutely amazing”.
“I think the landlord has to reconsider his position," he told BBC London. “I think the landlord should realise that you can't do this kind of thing in Soho, because obviously people will react. It's not acceptable any more.”

At the time of going to press, Samuel Smith's brewery, the owner of the pub, has declined to comment on the incident. The licence holder of the pub, Thomas Paget, also refused to comment when approached by the BBC on the Friday. Asked whether the venue had been the victim of a “misunderstanding”, Mr Paget said: “I don't have anything to say.”
At the time of going to press, another kiss-in protest was being planned to take place on Thursday 21 April.

Posted: 16 April 2011

Pictured below: Jonathan Williams and James Bull answer questions outside the John Snow (pictures © David Hudson)


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