Words: Alastair James; pictures: Instagram/thequeeremporium and Felix Isherwood
A queer business owner says they will have "no choice" but to close up and move shop if a bar opens in the adjacent property.
Yan White (he/they) who runs the Queer Emporium in Cardiff has been fighting against the opening of the Blame Gloria cocktail bar near his shop because of concerns over the safety of his customers, especially young people.
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A collective of LGBTQ-owned businesses the Emporium in Cardiff's Royal Arcade started off as a pop-up during Pride month in 2021 but has since gone to become a big success for the local LGBTQ scene.
"When we opened, I never really thought that it would be possible. But in the year since, we've really developed as an organisation. And we've realised where there are gaps in the queer scene, probably in most cities, but in Cardiff, certainly.
Yan (far left) runs the Queer Emporium
"There's not much provision when it comes to people who are under 18. And then gender non-conforming people, a lot of queer women, there's not really enough for them. So we're able to like fill in those gaps."
As well as hosting more than 20 vendors and a cafe, the Emporium also runs events and hosts gigs, reading groups as well as school trips. The Transition group meets specifically for trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people and they run nights for drag kings - the only regular such night in Cardiff.
The space is also a sponsor of the Welsh Ballroom Community.
A Welsh Ballroom Community show
"We've had school groups in, and it's amazing to see how excited they are. It's really special. There's a part of me that feels jealous because I wish I had had that when I was that age. But it is incredibly heartwarming to see."
It's become a valuable space for the LGBTQ community in the Welsh capital.
"We had someone come in," Yan recalls "who was clearly really excited to be in the space. And it basically transpired that they'd never been able to hold a Pride flag before that moment. And they could come in and buy one, which for them was a completely life-changing thing.
"And I think whilst we are just a shop on some levels when things like that happen, it makes you realise how special it is as well."
Yan adds, "we've been incredibly fortunate to have people around us who really backed us on all of that."
The Queer Emporium
And it's that support the Emporium is relying on now.
Earlier this month Cardiff Council granted an alcohol licence for the cocktail bar, Blame Gloria. The bar markets itself towards large group bookings such as hen parties and bottomless brunches and has branches in London.
On Friday (17 June) Yan posted from the Emporium's social channels to explain what was going on and to reassure followers that they're continuing to fight the decision.
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From what they understand, it's not a done deal yet and Yan has contacted the company behind Blame Gloria, the Adventure Bar Group, to try and work out compromises, which they are hopeful can still be reached.
Yan's main concern is safety, especially with a large part of their customer base being under-18 and/or those who may not feel comfortable in other venues in the city. They're also keen to stress that they don't have an issue with the bar itself and would be happy if the bar opened up somewhere else in Cardiff.
"They do employ LGBTQ people, and they do platform drag queens and things like that. So of course, I would want that," they say. "It's the daytime drinking that we take issue with.
"Ultimately, if you have large amounts of drunk people coming out of a venue, and there's a young trans teenager sat there having a coffee with their friends. I can't say for sure something bad would happen. But it is, as far as I'm concerned, inevitable at some point, something bad will happen."
Yan is also meeting with Cardiff Council this week who he's hoping will offer the Emporium some assurances.
"At the very least, I'm hoping they're going to look into why that licence was granted," he says thinking safety wasn't properly considered. Since writing an open letter to the council an accompanying petition has attracted more than 3,500 signatures.
Yan has been surprised at the amount of support. "It really does mean a lot. And it's also a testament to show that not only do people think that we're important, but also why there need to be more spaces like this. Spaces like ours do need to be safeguarded."
The bar has also had support from the likes of comedian Joe Lycett and Drag Race UK's Victoria Scone.
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Adamant that they're going to fight as hard as they can Yan has also considered what they'll do if Blame Gloria does open.
"Ultimately, I'm not going to keep the space open knowing that there is a likelihood that someone is going to be harmed really badly. There's no choice for me, I don't think it is responsible or safe for me to keep it open when that happens.
"So if that does happen, we definitely would be looking to move. With what they're proposing at this point, I don't think the Queer Emporium could continue to exist in that space alongside it."
As reported elsewhere, James Anderson, a lawyer representing the Adventure Bar Group at the public meeting where the bar's license was granted said the bar was "essentially an evening operator" and would open from lunchtime on Saturday and from around 5 pm on a weekday.
Cardiff Council says in a statement: "The licencing sub committee has heard this application and recognised the concerns of those who made representations but felt that no evidence was presented that the granting of the application would undermine the promotion of any of the four Licensing Objectives, including that of Prevention of Crime and Disorder.
"The applicant had agreed to some additional conditions proposed by South Wales Police as part of the consultation process.
"Where there is no evidence provided that a Premises Licence will undermine the licensing objectives, there is a presumption to grant the application. If there is evidence that a licensed premises is undermining the licensing objectives, the Licensing Act 2003 allows any person to apply for a review of the Premises Licence."
Attitude has approached the Adventure Bar Group for comment.
The Attitude July/August issue is out now.