G-A-Y nightclub and bars ‘in serious trouble’ amid third lockdown, claims Jeremy Joseph

Heaven nightclub will be opened as a wedding venue

Jeremy Joseph, the owner of the G-A-Y nightclubs in London, England, has said the beloved businesses are “in serious trouble” amid the third lockdown.

Just a day after prime minister Boris Johnson paved nightclub owners a crucial pathway to reopening – through rapid-fire testing, he suggested – Joseph has said the coronavirus pandemic has pelted the G-A-Y group. Hard.

Speaking to the i newspaper, Joseph, whose G-A-Y bar and club are well-known sights in the capital’s LGBT+ district, Soho, said: “So far this has cost us £1.1m in bills and insurance.

“The accounts are dying now and we’re in serious trouble.”

Jeremy Joseph, facing dire straits, debated selling one of his venues

“When we went into first lockdown, we used savings to get through it.

“In the second lockdown, we made a little bit of money to help us get through.

Jeremy Joseph G-A-Y

G-A-Y bar in Soho, London. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty)

“Now I’m literally looking at what changes can we make. If I could sell one of the venues’ leases now, I would.

“But who is going to start a club now? And if I turn around to a landlord and say we’re leaving, they can still go after the money.”

This echoed a similar call from Joseph within weeks of the first national lockdown, where many businesses quickly felt its jarring financial effects.

Joseph tweeted a statement at the time steeped with anger against the Johnson administration, asking landlords and the prime minister a simple question: “How the f**k do you expect me to reopen?”

G-A-Y owner offered Heaven as a vaccination centre

Months on, and as much as the government’s wage-support furlough scheme enabled Joseph to get by without redundancies, running a business with threadbare financial income is draining him, he said.

“VAT has completely killed us,” he explained, “they did this big announcement about deferring and they only delayed it for one quarter.

“We paid £125,000 in VAT bills last year.”

Moreover, he is still paying some £25,000 in monthly National Insurance and pension contributions as well as £100,000 insurance bill due in April.

While Joseph has been a heated critic of Johnson’s botched handling of the pandemic, he has praised the National Health Service’s vaccine distribution efforts. It’s seen sports stadiums, libraries and parking lots turned into COVID-19 vaccinations centres.

Rachel Platten (R) poses backstage with Jeremy Joseph and Jacob the dog before her performance on stage at G-A-Y Club Night at Heaven. (Jo Hale/Redferns)

Rachel Platten (R) poses backstage with Jeremy Joseph and Jacob the dog before her performance on stage at G-A-Y Club Night at Heaven. (Jo Hale/Redferns)

In January this year, Joseph even offered up the cavernous G-A-Y Club at Heaven as a vaccination centre to Westminster City Council. But his gesture fell on deaf ears, he claimed.

“I’d like to say, get the vaccine, then come back in three weeks and we’ll put you on the guest list.”

Indeed, for Heaven, the likes of Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue and Miley Cyrus once stepped through its doors.

Then in March 2020, it all went silent. Since the first national lockdown, nightclubs have largely remained shut and throughout the government’s fits and bursts approach to reopening businesses since, they have been offered little in the way of relief.

Bars have faced often regularly changing regulations around how they can remain open, prompting Joseph to rely on inventive workarounds to continue serving patrons.

In November, he began serving McDonald’s at Heaven to comply with a rule that required bars to serve a so-called “substantial meal” with alcoholic orders.

He later even sought legal action against the government over its highly-contended 10pm curfew measure.

While the courts declined to hear his plea, he vowed to keep fighting.