City’s only gay bar says police are trying to ‘crucify’ them after drugs and sword violence reports

City's only gay bar says police are trying to 'crucify' them with 'absurd' allegations

Canterbury’s only gay bar has claimed police are trying to “crucify” it after its licence was put under review following a number of call-outs.

Police say they have been called out to Limes Lounge in Canterbury, Kent to attend the scene of fights, investigate drug use in staff areas, and even break up a sword-wielding gang.

Co-owners Michael Lee and Tony Butcher, however, deny the allegations as “absurd”.

Lee, 39, told KentOnline: “The drugs allegation is absolute rubbish. They did drug swabs and said there was evidence of drug use in our area – but we have a zero-tolerance policy towards it… Why would we do drugs behind the bar? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Police documents show that officers have been called to dozens of alleged incidents at the gay bar over the past year, including one which saw a “group with swords” being kicked out of the bar on 15 August.

Lee added: “I’ve never seen anyone with swords outside – it’s ridiculous.

“We’ve had to throw people out for being abusive or homophobic, but some of these reports are mental.”

He explained that if police were to restrict the venue’s licence – such as by changing the bar’s opening hours or requiring more security – it would “eat up into our profits”.

Butcher told KentOnline: “They’re creating a situation which is not necessary. We don’t cause any issues here at all… They’re trying to crucify us.”

Inspector Thomas Mepstead told the newspaper in a statement: “This [licence review] follows police receiving a number of calls to incidents which are believed to have begun at the premises, and concerns raised to Canterbury’s Community Safety Unit, including that levels of drunkenness allowed at the premises are having a detrimental impact on the local community.

“Further suspected breaches include the employment of unregistered door staff, entry being allowed after midnight and customers not being encouraged to disperse quietly after closing.

“The review will be heard at an upcoming meeting of Canterbury City Council’s licensing sub-committee.”

Shortly after the gay bar opened, Butcher explained that Limes Lounge had been the target of an onslaught of anti-gay threats and visitors, including threats from the council to withdraw the bar’s licence.

He said after an arson threat to the venue in 2014: “We have tried everything to be good neighbours but just feel like we are constantly being hounded and targeted.”

However, Canterbury City Council said it had a “duty to investigate noise complaints”.

Then council assistant director Larissa Reed said at the time: “We absolutely refute any suggestion of homophobia on our part or that the council has an agenda against this premises.

“We simply have a duty to investigate noise complaints of this nature.”

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