What seemed like a positive development in the battle to save The Joiners Arms has turned out to be a very restrictive offer.
Earlier this week it was reported that Regal Homes – the company who have bought the site and plan to turn it into luxury apartments – had agreed that part of the building plan must include an LGBT+ venue for the next 12 years.
Groups associated with helping save The Joiners Arms would be given first refusal, suggesting that the popular venue could be reopened by its former owners.
However, Friends of the Joiners Arms have called upon councillors to reject the property developer’s planning application.
Instead, they’d like to work with the council to re-establish the venue under community control.
The reason they are unhappy with the proposal is because it would limit opening hours of the venue to 11pm, and to 12pm on Friday and Saturday.
It would also have a smaller total space than the Joiners Arms, meaning the developers wouldn’t even give the full venue back to the LGBT+ community.
“With no basement space, no off-street smoking area, no ancillary accommodation, and a recommendation from the officers that it closes early 7 days a week, we cannot possibly hope to have a space resembling or replacing the important role the Joiners Arms played in our community,” said Amy Roberts, cochair of Friends of the Joiners Arms.
“The proposed planning clause also allows the developers to ‘mark their own homework’ in terms of selecting an LGBTQI+ operator.
“Tower Hamlets has lost 70% of its queer spaces in the last decade, and we believe this application will guarantee we lose in our aim to reprovide a latelicence, communityfocussed LGBTQI+ space.
“We appreciate the commitment Tower Hamlets council and its councillors have made to saving and protecting queer venues in the borough.”
She added: “We as the LGBT+ local community ask you to continue to listen to our voices, and reject these plans. The development will not end with a queer venue opening its doors in Tower Hamlets.
“The council has a chance to change that.”
Friends of the Joiners Arms have fought for nearly three years to save the historic night spot, with the aim of transforming it into London’s only cooperatively owned and managed LGBT+ Community Centre.
They would want to also maintain its functions as a pub with a late license.
Friends of the Joiners Arms urge members of the LGBT+ community to join them at the committee meeting on 9 August at 7pm at the Council Chamber at Tower Hamlets Town Hall.