Nightclub accused of homophobia after banning PDA that ‘disrupts straight clientele’

Guys and Dolls Isle of Man

A bar named Guys and Dolls in the Isle of Man has denied it is “homophobic” after it hit out at “antisocial” public displays of affection “aimed directly to disrupt our straight clientele”.

The showbar and nightclub in the island’s capital town of Douglas, announced a public displays of affection (PDA) policy on Sunday (23 May) that states that staff may intervene with those engaging in overt sexual behaviour “aimed directly to disrupt our straight clientele”.

It is understood that the Guys and Dolls social media account is run by the club’s owner, Richard Wernham.

The policy sparked a backlash from LGBT+ residents and patrons, who dubbed it “disgraceful” and “blatantly homophobic”. The Isle of Man’s main Pride organisation, Isle of Pride, said it shows that discrimination remains prevalent today.

Guys and Dolls have emphatically denied that the policy – or its staff – are anti-LGBT+ and that the policy applies to same and mixed-sex couples. It has been in place for more than two decades, its owner said.

In a statement to PinkNews, Wernham said: “This is a malicious attack and seems highly orchestrated.

“We are an all-inclusive venue who welcomes all equally and not a gay bar as some infer.

“Sadly people see [the policy] as somehow homophobic which it certainly isn’t, we welcome all LGBT people as equals.

“Our PDA policy has been in place for 20 years or so in one form or another,” Wernham stressed.

“It’s certainly not new and is very well known but disliked by some. It isn’t in any way discriminatory, it applies to all and is completely legal.

“It’s about keeping standards of behaviour high and not about spoiling people’s fun.”

When reiterating its “PDA (public displays of affection) policy”, Guys and Dolls said that PDA is “undermining our community-based function”.

“Any further attempts to deliberately provoke it will be regarded as antisocial behaviour aimed directly to disrupt our straight clientele, many of whom have family members who are from LGBT+ groups,” Guys and Dolls said in the Facebook post.

“We all support this approach and will enforce it. Welcome to equal rights and 2021.”

It came days after the Isle of Man bar said it has been “busy throwing out people for kissing who aren’t actually in or just kissing while simultaneously being empty”.

The policy was met with criticism from the LGBT+ community, with the mention of “straight clientele” fuelling concerns over whether the PDA rule is discriminatory.

“The bit about PDAs being regarded as ‘antisocial behaviour’ aimed to disrupt your ‘straight clientele’,” a user said, “this isn’t even subtle anti-LGBT+ language – you are being quite blatant here.”

“All in favour of renaming ‘guys and dolls’ to ‘straights and phobics’,” one user wrote.

“I am disappointed to see a local bar persisting with the suggestion that seeing same-sex couples kissing in public is offensive to heterosexual clientele,” wrote Isle of Pride representative Kara Varetto in the Facebook statement.

“All venues should focus on stamping out discrimination in all its forms.”

Varetto said they have “themself been asked to stop kissing their girlfriend”.

In response to critics, Guys and Dolls denied that the policy is anti-LGBT+ across a series of comments.

“Absolutely none of our staff are homophobic in any way,” one said.

“Our public sessions are open to all regardless of sexuality as is the law. Accusing us of homophobia is ridiculous.”

In other comments, however, Guys and Dolls described the policy as a “trap” to “expose them for what they are”.

“None of this is about actual LGBT+ issues,” another comment by the bar read. “It’s about trying to overthrow the venue to make it exclusively gay.”

“We have a term to, [sic] heterophobic,” Guys and Dolls replied to one detractor, before adding: “We are not a gay bar and never can be.”

Guys and Dolls refuses to bow down, says policy ‘applies to all’

On Monday (21 May), Guys and Dolls clarified exactly what its PDA policy means. It said in a Facebook status that the policy applies to both same and mixed-sex couples and that its staff are not homophobic.

“Our venue is fully inclusive, we welcome all, LGBT+, straight or of any ethnicity,” it said.

“Our target clientele is the more mature audience who enjoy older music but the door is open to all.

“We have high standards of public behaviour in keeping with our type of license. This includes regulating behaviour that would be considered by other guests as socially unacceptable.

“In a mixed environment, this sometimes gets confused as being unfair when it isn’t. Our rules apply to all regardless of sexuality etc.

“A simple kiss between two people wouldn’t cause any issue, it happens frequently. However, when things get a little more heated it’s a different story and as in any public venue, a request to cool it down will be made.

“This is usually all that happens. If after warning it continues further action may result. It doesn’t matter if it’s two males, two females or a male and a female, it’s something that applies to all.”

According to Isle of Man radio station Three FM, police spoke to the licensee of the venue and “reminded him of his obligations under licensing and equality legislation”.