LGBTQ+ venues call for urgent action as spiralling energy bills threaten to close more safe spaces
LGBTQ+ venues and businesses are facing a new threat as energy prices continue to soar – and they’re begging the government to step in.
Unless Liz Truss takes action, from 1 October, most people will pay around £1,570 more per year for gas and electricity, after energy regulator Ofgem increased the energy price cap to £3,549 for an average household.
The situation is bleak for many, and for independent businesses, things are no different.
Bars, pubs and other business are not covered by Ofgem’s energy price cap, and therefore face even steeper rises to bills this winter. Many sign up to annual fixed-price contracts each October, but there have been reports of providers refusing to fix prices this year, instead leaving some on out-of-contract rates that will likely soar as wholesale prices continue to rise.
Some 70 per cent of pubs do not expect to survive this winter due to the rise in energy costs, research reported by The Guardian has revealed.
Co-owner of Margate LGBTQ+ bar and community space CAMP, Derek du Preez, told PinkNews that the soaring energy costs are “extremely concerning for independent queer venues”.
He said due to only being open for a few months, CAMP’s “margins are incredible tight”.
“But while we aren’t focused on profit, we do need the business to sustain itself. Increasing our cost base every month by hundreds of pounds because of rising energy bills means we are going to have to cut costs elsewhere. It’s not just energy bills, inflation has hit our stock costs by a significant amount too,” Derek explained.
A spokesperson for Retro Bar, the popular LGBTQ+ venue in London occupying a site that has been a pub since the 17th century, is among those calling on the government to act.
A spokesperson said told PinkNews: “As with all hospitality businesses, we urge the government to intervene to ensure energy companies work constructively with UK businesses in providing contracts as pubs and bars find themselves being forced to accept out of contract rates.”
Du Perez agrees that the state needs to step in to help queer venues stay afloat. Even before the energy crisis, many were in a precarious position – London has seen more than half its LGBTQ+ venues close since 2006 – and the pandemic finished a good number more off.
“The local queer community here is amazing and I’m sure will continue to support us, but ultimately what’s required here is government intervention,” said du Perez.
“A tax levy on energy giants that are making huge amounts of profit off the back of this crisis would go a long way to support local queer venues like ours. Action is needed now.”
While businesses face turbulence without urgent intervention, its everyday people who are facing incredible dangerous hardships ahead.
LGBTQ+ homelessness charity akt recently told PinkNews how the cost of living crisis is forcing queer young people out of safe homes and into potentially dangerous situations.
Gay’s the Word is one of the oldest LGBTQ+ bookshops in the UK. Thanks to “the support and affection of the community”, the store weathered the pandemic, and “been doing really well both during and post-lockdown”, says assistant manager, Uli Lenart.
But, Lenart adds: “The concerning news for everyone is that the cost of living rises means we are all going to have to adjust to making less stretch even further.”
“As well as being savvy and resilient”, Lenart told PinkNews he thinks it’s “important wherever possible to keep positive about the situation and ourselves, and continue pursue the activities which bring us joy in life and feed our sense of wellbeing”.
Lenart said that those who do have money to spend can be more mindful of where and how they’re spending it.
“If people don’t feel like they’ve got the cash to splurge on lots of new books, come in and have root around the gems in our second-hand section, for example,” Lenart said.
“If we have some beer money, let’s get together with our mates and spend it in a queer venue that we love.”
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