Last night, Robert & Nathan Gale attended the Scottish Charity Awards at the Old Fruitmarket. Both are campaigners for the Equality Network and received an award for their contribution to the cause of equal rights. Then, like many a weegie-based gay before them, they went to Polo Lounge. Robert is in a wheelchair and when they approached the club they were refused entry. Being fully aware of the rights we all have, they protested and asked to be let in. Just to clarify what we are talking about here, as Nathan pointed out,
We weren’t asking for wheelchair access, both Rob and I are able to get into inaccessibles venues and indeed Rob has been to the Polo Lounge many times in the past.
They were not asking for the club to be concreted over or for the bar to be turned into a half-pipe for their amusement; they were asking for them, as human beings, to be allowed to enter one of the few gay venues open in the wee small hours. I don’t like to make assumptions about strangers but I’m assuming since they were out with their friends that someone would have been on hand to open a door or carry something for a few seconds if need be, just like anyone’s pals would. In protest, Robert got out of his wheelchair and began to crawl towards the door. The manager got involved. In the words of Nathan he was “downright rude, obnoxious and demeaning.” Not content with attempting to humiliate their punters, the venue decided to call the police to remove Nathan, Robert and their pals. What should have been a celebration almost turned into a night in the pokey. “This is exactly why disabled people don’t go out very often.” Nathan told Gay Star News. The Polo Lounge is part of the G1 Group owned by this week’s inductee, Stefan King.
G1 have released a statement pointing out “there was no facility for wheelchair access to the building (due to the structural restrictions of a Grade A listed building, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.)” That’s grand except that no-one asked for wheelchair access. “It’s not illegal” also has to be the thinnest defence of terrible behaviour ever and is the pre-made corporate response to just about everything we all KNOW they do. Other than the fact they can (probably) legally get away with it, why else would a bouncer in a G1 club want to turn someone away? Maybe because they don’t fit the image of what their perfect punter looks like. Why would this matter to them?
To answer that, we have to look at the last time Stefan King and his ventures were in the news. His “Shimmy Club” hit the headlines less than a month ago when it was reported they were charging £800 to allow men to hire booths to watch women in the toilets. A large two way mirror allowed creeps to pay to gawk at women washing their hands. Leaked pictures of men taking pictures of themselves gleefully perving on women began to emerge on Twitter. The police are now investigating and the matter has been reported to the licensing board. Even Glasgow City Council’s leader/moral guardian, Gordon Matheson, expressed his outrage saying,
It is a basic invasion of privacy and it’s not the sleazy, degrading attitude that we want to see. The licensing board will be looking at this and I want to see the strongest possible action taken.
The club defended themselves by saying it was a “bit of fun.” Except it’s just not really fun is it?
The scandals at Polo & Shimmy are not two unrelated events but part of the same problem. Stefan and his G1 Group want young, rich, pretty, identikit punters so they can get em in, get em pished and get em out. They are only interested in beautiful people. The fact is, they don’t think anyone will want to pay to perv on you if you don’t meet their standards, whatever they are. They don’t just want to sell to you; they want to sell you and they want you to sell them.
I’ve saw a good few people who’ve said that these places are just all shit and well… if you go there you should get what’s coming to you. That’s just not good enough. It’s not for me to dictate what people do with their time, where they choose to go to and get pished or have a good time. I don’t think it’s OK for disabled people to be turned away from a club just because I don’t want to go there. I don’t think it’s fine for men to pay to spy on women washing their hands anywhere. People who actually go out realise you often don’t choose where you end up and if you do that’s your business. We are either all equal and free to go where we want or we aren’t.
Going out is about having fun, it’s about being with people who love you and care about you and look after you. It can and should sometimes be a celebration of who and what we are – like last night should have been for Nathan & Robert. It can and should sometimes be a celebration of what you look like – whatever that is. Our culture, our spaces, our society wouldn’t be what they are without all of us in them. You can exclude people because they’re not “perfect” but that doesn’t mean they can or should just go away.
Speaking of people who refuse to go away, Nathan & Robert have taken to Facebook and Twitter today calling for a boycott of Polo Lounge which we fully concur with. Usually, I can easily nod at boycotts knowing full well I’ve never gone there anyway and add it to my list of reasons to be smug. But I must confess I’m sometimes partial to fetching my favourite tank top and heading for a certain venue in the Merchant City. It’s time we said even if Polo think they can legally get away with treating people like this – we’re not going to let them get away with it anymore.
And why stop there? I think it’s time to send a message to Mr. King and say we’re tired of him running our culture, our nightlife and our city. We need to stop feeding the hand that bites us and learn to walk on by. Luckily there are plenty of nights for people – gay and/or straight – that don’t offer the same judgement on your very existence that we get from those in the G1 franchise.
If you’re inclined to tell our friends at Glasgow City Council how you feel about what’s happened at the Polo, Shimmy, or share your experiences at any of the G1 venues you can find them here or maybe drop them an email at LicensingBoard@glasgow.gov.uk. You can show your support for the boycott of Polo here (or you could just not go to a G1 place). They’ve made it easy for us with a searchable list of their venues – here’s Glasgow’s list.
Glasgow deserves better than being turned into a commodified, creep-filled, clone culture for cash crazed cunts. Stefan King, you are a wanker.