It’s been a while since I scribed a “gay” blog entry (no jokes please) but that’s because sexual orientation hasn’t been of any particular…pressing agenda (for the want of another term) recently. But yesterday’s email chain to a couple of friends made me want to have a nostalgia rant in a more prosaic format. So without any further preamble, the subject of today’s scribble is “The Gay Tax”.

Before settling down at the keyboard, I thought I’d just perform a search on the term “gay tax” to see what the interweb had to offer. To be honest, the bulk of the results focussed on taxes for same sex couples and inheritance tax. I could have searched on other issues such as the pink pound/dollar or LGB businesses but I’m somewhat pressed for time (and apathy).

To recap what has been said, it’s been particularly galling as of late to have paid one of my increasingly infrequent visits to the various venues of Old Compton Street & environs and been stung over the price of drinks. There has always been a slight mark-up/price differential between LGB venues and non LGB venues (pubs, clubs et al) as it is something of a restrictive market and the bottom line always has to be watched closely.

This gulf seems to have been widening in recent months – either as a reaction to the recession and the less frequent patronising of said venues by clientele or as others have suggested, the result of increasing integration. There’s merit in both arguments and to a third one which is the fact that the overall appeal of an LGB specific venue has been waning, particularly when one considers the lack of effort and energy gone into maintaining such venues. Frequent complaints are heard about the state of lavatories, unhelpfulness of staff, rudeness of staff, shabby furniture and general lack of cleanliness.

Ten to twelve years ago, when I was immersing myself in the scene I found that the arguments I espoused then are the opposite of what I think now to a particular extent. Segregation isn’t the way forward as there needs to be general acceptance/tolerance of people and their relationships but there still is and always will be a need for “safe spaces”. That said, said “safe spaces” aren’t a licence to print money.

Another cause of my falling out with the whole scene is the fact that the bar staff are now in charge. To quantify this statement, I would have to say that ten years ago, bar management was definitely more visible than it is now. There was more of a “Quark’s” role to it with definite customer interaction and an attempt at giving the punters a good evening out. My perception is that now many of those managers have moved on, staff have been promoted upstairs but aren’t acting as managers whilst the staff are more interested in their next grindr conquest than pulling pints. There have been a couple of occasions in recent weeks where in Comptons and the Admiral Duncan, customers have been waiting ages to be served because of grindr addictions.

The entertainment on offer in the scene has been sorely lacking – not all bars have to be cabaret bars but that used to be one of the major draws. There were theme nights, quizzes, singers, drag acts etc. Nowadays it’s harder to find these things going on. King’s Arms used to do a quiz but that’s died. So has the one at Halfway 2 Heaven and I think Retro Bar (though the latter was more of a torture session than an actual attempt at a quiz).

My rant today is not a pitch at attempting to change my career (though there’s only so much EU Regulation I can stomach each decade and I’ve already had my fill for the Twenty-Tens) but more of a talking point for anyone interested in reviving a flagging scene which isn’t far from being proclaimed dead. And of course to Mr Osbourne to stop taxing liquor so much. It’s one of the few vices we have left to enjoy.

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