Gay pub can bar heterosexuals
A MELBOURNE pub catering for gay men has won the right to refuse entry to heterosexuals in a landmark ruling at the state planning tribunal.
The owners of Collingwood's Peel Hotel applied to ban straight men and women to try to prevent "sexually based insults and violence" towards its gay patrons.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week granted the pub an exemption to the Equal Opportunity Act, effectively prohibiting entry to non-homosexuals.
VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie said if heterosexual men and women came into the venue in large groups, their number might be enough to swamp the gay male patrons.
"This would undermine or destroy the atmosphere which the company wishes to create," Ms McKenzie said in her findings.
"Sometimes heterosexual groups and lesbian groups insult and deride and are even physically violent towards the gay male patrons."
Some women even booked hens' nights at the venue using the gay patrons as entertainment, Ms McKenzie said.
"To regard the gay male patrons of the venue as providing an entertainment or spectacle to be stared at, as one would at an animal at a zoo, devalues and dehumanises them," she said.
"(This exemption) seeks to give gay men a space in which they may, without inhibition, meet, socialise and express physical attraction to each other in a non-threatening atmosphere."
The Peel manager Tom McFeely told the tribunal the plan to refuse entry had been advertised at the hotel, with no objections received.
Mr McFeely said most of the regulars at the hotel had responded positively.
A spokeswoman for the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby Group said she believed the ruling made the Peel one of only two men-only venues in Melbourne.
"This exemption was not sought to exclude members of the community but to try to maintain a safe space for men to meet," the spokeswoman said.
She said gay men at the Peel had recently been ostracised and made to feel like "zoo animals".
"It's sad that members of our community would have to go to the VCAT to preserve their rights," the spokeswoman said.
"This is one of the only free venues with live music in the area, so certainly some people may feel a bit unhappy about the decision."
The Peel attracted criticism in April over an ad for a gay Anzac Day party that showed a near-naked man in a slouch hat.
The hotel used a Shrine of Remembrance guard as the unwitting star of an ad for an Anzac Day eve bash. The ad was published in gay magazines and on the venue's website.
It was withdrawn after intense criticism from the Victorian RSL, which called it a "desecration of the Anzac spirit".