George and Dragon, Greenwich
The George and Dragon is a long-established LGBT venue (photo: Chris Whippet/Geograph used under Creative Commons)

A Greenwich pub has been given a grant from City Hall as part of a scheme to help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) venues a survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The George & Dragon on Blackheath Road is one of 11 bars and clubs have been handed grants totalling almost £130,000 to weather the latest restrictions in the capital.

Like other hospitality businesses, they have been hit hard by a drop in customers and the new 10pm nationwide curfew – and clubs have still been unable to open even as restrictions eased.

But LGBT spaces are also a vital “safe haven” for their customers, where they don’t have to hide their identity, according to London mayor Sadiq Khan.

LGBT venues faced challenges in London even before the Covid-19 outbreak: between 2006 and 2017 more than 60 per cent of bars, clubs and other spaces for the community closed, leaving just 47 across the capital, down from 126. Numbers have stabilised in recent years, with the Mayor and night czar Amy Lamé championing the sector.

The new cash comes from a £2.3 million pot launched earlier this year to back at-risk culture – with £225,000 already earmarked for LGBT spaces.

As well as the George & Dragon – which has received £8,000 – the other venues getting funding are Bar CMYK in Wimbledon; Circa Club on Victoria Embankment; Dalston Superstore; VFD in Dalston; The Glory in Haggerston; Eagle, Fire and RVT in Vauxhall; New Bloomsbury Set and the West Five bar in Ealing.

Sadiq Khan said he was “so proud” to represent a city that champions diversity and supports all its communities.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on our LGBTQ+ venues, which we know play a vital role in supporting the community, acting as a safe haven where they can feel comfortable and free to be who they are,” he warned.

The mayor said he was working hard to secure the future of the “vibrant” LGBT scene across London.

Amy Lamé said the cash was a “lifeline” for venues as well as the “ecosystem of talent” they support,  including drag performers, DJs and promoters.

Bal Sidhu, owner of the West Five bar, said the cash had given owners “some much needed light at the end of the tunnel”.

“The entertainment industry has been struggling with more and more venues closing down or being replaced with residential units,” he said.

“This could lead to certain arts and niche cabaret being lost in the UK, which would be a real shame.”

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Jessie Mathewson is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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