Gay pub owner wants to put the record straight

THE OWNER of a landmark gay pub in Hampstead has admitted that she is trying to attract more straight customers.

The King William IV pub in Hampstead High Street is steeped in London’s gay history. It has provided a warm and friendly place for gay men to meet up in since the 1930s – 30 years before homosexuality was legalised.

But the owner Elaine Loughran, who is gay herself, claims that there is no longer the business in Hampstead for a gay-only bar.

“There’s a lovely gay-friendly atmosphere here but it’s not a gay-only pub,” she said.

“We are running a business and if people think you can run a business purely on your sexuality, they don’t understand business. There’s not enough support in the area to run a gay bar.”

Ms Loughran, 40, who bought the pub two years ago, said that everyone is welcome but she has changed its profile from a gay-only pub to an eaterie with a mixed clientele. A drag queen no longer presents the weekly quiz night, but drag acts still perform at the pub and it now caters for up to 3,000 people a month.

But she denied that the venue no longer caters for Hampstead’s gay community adding that condoms and gay lifestyle magazines are still available.

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“It used to be a very male orientated pub, but now there’s a mix,” she added.

Ms Loughran has been angered by mutterings in the gay community that the strong identity of King Billy’s, as it is known locally, should not be tampered with.

She said: “I thought this is what gay people wanted. My family comes over from Ireland and we have nights out with a mixture of people. But when you have a mixture of people the gay society seem to be “heterophobic” – and I’m a lesbian.

“Why do gay people not want to integrate into society? This is what gay people fought for 40 years, for acceptance, yet when straight people walk into a gay pub no one’s happy about it.

“Would you have straight-only pubs, or black-only pubs? No you wouldn’t, so why should we have gay-only pubs. It’s a very slighted mindset.

“Our old regular customers are extremely happy because it’s run as a professional business.”

She added that the pub still endeavoured to cater for the gay community, offering Christmas dinners for �10 only and free meals for older gay men through its partnership with Age Concern.

However, members of Hampstead’s gay community are disappointed that the landlady has decided to open the doors to the straight community.

Daily Mail columnist and LBC presenter Andrew Pierce, who is frequently listed as one of the most influential people in the gay community, lives in Belsize Park.

Mr Pierce, 50, said: “I don’t know if it’s true that its gay identity is being diluted because I haven’t been in for months, but if it is I’d be very surprised and disappointed. The King William IV is steeped in gay history and was known to be gay friendly as far back as the 1930s, three decades before homosexuality was legalised.

“The last decade has been an extraordinary era for gay men and women, not least because of the advent of civil partnerships.

“It would be ironic then, if at a time when we are celebrating sexuality one of London’s landmark gay pubs went back into the closet.”

West Hampstead Liberal Democrat councillor Keith Moffitt, who was formerly the leader of Camden Council, said: “I met my long-standing partner in the King William IV, 21 years ago and I would be sorry if its gay identity were to be diluted.”