Everyone’s least favourite entertainment monolith G1 Group have unveiled plans to open a new venue in Glasgow – hardly news in itself given they already own about half the city’s licensed premises. But controversy is never far away when G1 are concerned and their latest venture is no different, with new venue Cotton Club “harking back” in homage to a racist, whites-only jazz club that existed in Prohibition-era New York.
The venue is expected to open in August and will be situated in the basement of the Corinthian, the mock-grandiose casino that towers over Ingram Street, a favoured haunt of Old Firm footballers and coke-guzzling local politicians. Although details are currently thin on the ground, a website and social media pages for Cotton Club appeared last month, with an alluring blurb that suggests that G1 mogul Stefan King has been watching too much Boardwalk Empire:
The year is 1923, Harlem is swinging…and so is The Cotton Club. This August, a famous name returns as Glasgow opens the doors to an atmospheric underground casino.
So what of that “famous name”? Well, it only takes until the third line of the [original] Cotton Club’s Wiki page to establish that it was erm, “whites-only”, generally the kind of thing that should set alarm bells ringing. Then again, G1 Group have never exactly been a shining example of best practice when it comes to having a fucking clue about anything, so this is probably to be expected. Although the [original] Cotton Club is reputed for showcasing many of the most well known black performers of the inter-war period – names like Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong – it was resolute in maintaining segregation, despite being based in Harlem. The club presented its white audience with a “prefabricated exoticism”, awash with racist imagery and with strict demands on how its black performers were allowed to appear.
The door policy of G1’s Cotton Club remains unclear at time of publication, in no small part due to the fact they’re deleting the comments of anyone asking on the club’s Facebook page. The trigger happy social media admins at G1 are well attuned to this game by now, of course, with this far from the first controversy to hit Stefan King’s Empire, including owning the first ever club venue in Scotland to be erm… pursued under the Race Relations Act for operating a racist door policy. That case – in 1999 – collapsed, although the judge did note that there was a “body of evidence” that indicated racism was a feature of “club life” for young Asian men. This is before we even get into G1’s recent history. Little over two months ago, the Group were named and shamed for not paying the National Minimum Wage, while in 2014 they paid out £2,000 after court proceedings from a disabled couple that had been denied entry to the Polo Lounge.
Back on the Corinthian though, its website “history” section does make voracious claims about being on the site of one of the “finest private residences” in Glasgow, that stood there until the mid-19th century. Oddly enough, it neglects to mention that the mansion in question was built by notorious tobacco lord George Buchanan. That a venue in the Merchant City – an area built on the profits of chattel slavery – is apparently now using the legacy of colonialism, slavery and segregation as a marketing gimmick is staggering.
G1 owner Stefan King is not usually a man with much to say and rarely speaks on record. One time he did, however, was during the aforementioned 1999 racism courtcase, in which he wheeled out the defence that “a past romance with black pop singer Sinitta proved he was not a racist”.
“‘I also had several relationships with other black women,” King is reported as saying. Whether he’s prepared to resort to this defence to fend off the latest mess his bungling entertainment group have found themselves in remains to be seen, but we suspect not.