Soho pub shuts its doors hours before gay kissing protest

A pub at the centre of a dispute over a gay kiss shut its doors last night as hundreds of demonstrators converged on it to hold a kiss-in.

James Bull, 23, and Jonathan Williams, 26, were enjoying their first date on Wednesday evening when they said they were forcibly removed from the John Snow pub in Soho, central London, by management who described their behaviour as "obscene".

Word of the ejection caused a storm on social networking sites and a protest was quickly organised on Facebook for demonstrators to fill the John Snow and start a kiss-in. But after learning of the event, the pub management decided to close for the evening.

Up to 300 demonstrators, not all of them gay, arrived at the John Snow to find the doors locked. But they went ahead with the planned mass kiss in the street at 7pm. A rainbow flag was hung across the door of the pub and the doorstep became a platform for kissing couples.

Many of those who had turned up to express their anger at the pub regarded the locked doors as a victory, especially because it was on one of the most lucrative nights of the week.

Amy Ritchie, 29, said: "It's excellent that the pub closed. Everybody who has worked in a bar or a restaurant knows you never close it down on a Friday. It's a triumph."

Peter Tatchell, the veteran gay rights campaigner, added: "It's a huge disappointment that the brewery chain has not yet made a public statement or an apology. It is a sure sign of weakness."

Another protester, Steve Erskine, said: "It was a real shame the pub closed. They really should have come out and made a statement. I mean, this is a pub in Soho, which has its own community of gay people, and the fact they have made no apology is outrageous."

The gay couple at the centre of the expulsion row had chosen the John Snow because it served their favourite cider. They said yesterday they were overwhelmed by the support they had received from complete strangers.

Mr Bull said: "This is about people being comfortable with who they are and displaying it. For me tonight isn't just about gay people, it's about everybody being out here together." He added: "I don't think I want to take legal action. For me it's enough that people have come down here and shown their support. It shows me that the majority don't agree with what happened. For me, that's enough."

Mr Williams described the protest as "an amazing reaction" and added: "The fact the pub closed says it all, really. What do they have to hide? Surely they should have welcomed us all, had a drink with us and apologised if mistakes were made."

Paul Shetler, who had organised the event on Facebook, was delighted with the response to his call for a kiss-in. "They were humiliated in a way that nobody should be humiliated and that's why we're here," he said.

The pub, which is one of 300 operated by the Samuel Smith's brewery, is close to the heart of London's "gay village" but does not style itself as a gay bar. Thomas Paget, the licence holder of the pub, refused to comment on the row. "I don't have anything to say," he said. And no one in the brewery's Tadcaster head office was available for comment.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "We are investigating an incident which occurred at approximately 10.50pm on 13th April at a venue in Broadwick Street, W1. There have been no arrests and inquiries are ongoing."

Earlier, Jamie Morton, 23, who was also told to leave the pub after jumping to the couple's defence, said: "You just don't expect people to be treated like that. It wasn't even like they were kissing in any way that could be construed as raunchy. It was their first date for God's sake."

Lucy Clements, 27, a TV production manager from Brixton, said she had been ordering a drink when she saw the men being verbally attacked.

"It was just so blatant," she said. "Everybody knows that subtle discrimination happens all the time, but it was shocking to see it so obviously being directed at this lovely couple sitting next to me."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Drop Driver

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This food distribution company ...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Drop Driver

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This food distribution company ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent