Bottom’s up! Gay’s the Word robbers caught drinking tequila and prosecco during raid

Gay's the Word

Two men who broke into Gay’s the Word were caught by police after failing to steal anything – because they’d found, and drunk, a bottle of tequila and a bottle of prosecco in the iconic LGBT+ bookshop.

The world famous and much-beloved London bookshop, which was the first LGBT+ bookshop in the UK when it opened in 1979, was broken into on February 9.

Two men broke into Gay’s the Word by smashing the glass in the front door and back windows of the Soho shop in the early hours.

But when police arrived, the burglars were downstairs in the basement drinking prosecco – having already drunk a leftover bottle of tequila that was in the shop after a staff member’s birthday.

“They had been there for some time,” said bookseller Uli Lenart.

“I think they were looking for cash, but when they didn’t find any, they started bringing up computer equipment from the basement.

“As I went through the shop afterwards, I found an empty bottle of tequila, and an open bottle of prosecco on the kitchen table downstairs.

“They seemed to have been boozing up mid-burglary, which probably wasn’t the most prudent thing to do.”

Lenard added that the police had been called after a member of the public heard the windows being smashed.

“[The burglars] got distracted by the booze and were here when the police arrived,” he said.

After being arrested, one man has now been jailed for six months and the other given a 16-week sentence, suspended for a year.

No books were stolen, with money from a donation tin on the shop counter for LGBT+ youth charity Mosaic the only thing missing.

Gay’s the Word reopened on Monday, with Lenart saying: “We’ve been at the broken windows rodeo before.”

The shop on Marchmont Street was founded in 1979 when gay titles were generally not available in ordinary bookstores.

It is run by a small group of people from Gay Icebreakers, an LGBT+ socialist group, and has become an iconic cornerstone of queer history. It featured prominently in the award-winning film Pride as the epicentre of the Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners activist movement in the 1980s.

Unfortunately its “very visible presence” in the LGBT+ community has led to an onslaught of repeated attacks from vandals over the years.

In 2011 the shop window was smashed and pelted with eggs by a group of youths on bikes; a year later another break in saw the store’s safe and computer equipment stolen.

In spite of all this the cherished bookshop continued to stand against hatred and bigotry, and didn’t stop trading “for a single second” after another attack in 2018 left the shop with £500 worth of damages.