The Court lists 20 actions for improvement but patrons remain concerned

The Court Hotel has listed 20 actions it’s undertaking to address concerns about safety and culture at the popular venue, but the response from patrons has been mixed, with many saying they’re still unhappy.

The most recent wave of complaints about both The Court Hotel and Connections Nightclub was sparked by images of drag performer Scarlet Adams appearing in blackface and costumes appropriated from other cultures.

Adams’ profile has increased recently when she was selected to take part in the upcoming television series RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. As photos of Adams previous performances spread on social media it led to a renewed conversation about inclusion in the wider LGBTIQA+ communities, and more specifically at venues.

Both The Court Hotel and Connections Nightclub issued apologies and vowed to add further improvements to their services, and Adams is no longer employed by either venue.

In the post The Court said they describe themselves as an all-inclusive venue, a space for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, but they would also make sure their friends, parents, siblings, allies and passers-by feel happy to walk in too.

“We want to ensure that everyone is welcomed regardless of gender, sexuality or race. Our ideal view of society is that these differences are celebrated.” the post reads.

The venue has faced repeated calls to stop describing itself a gay venue due its growing popularity with people from outside the realms of the queer communities. In response The Court has promised to use language that better describes itself as a venue that is welcoming of everybody, but the change in descriptors has led to additional criticism.

At the top of the list of actions the venue has committed to undertake is a physical statement on embracing diversity. The Court has announced it will seek permission from the City of Perth to paint a new mural across the front of the building, one that reflects the diversity of sexuality, age and ethnicity that it seeks to encourage within its walls.

Other initiatives include updating signage, and language used in social media, improving security, making managers more visible, launching a campaign to encourage people to report inappropriate behaviour, adding new events, recognising traditional owners of the land, stricter contracts for performers and committing to on-going community consultation.

On social media many of the commenters expressed concern that the venue would no longer be describing itself as a gay bar, but the venue responded noting that it had been a common request from patrons.

“The Court was once a smaller venue where the vast majority of the patrons identified LGBTQIA+. Now, as the venue has grown and society has changed, all types of people are coming to The Court. We can’t discriminate against people from outside of the community, just like we would expect them not to discriminate against us at another venue. This firm belief in anti-discrimination works both ways.” The Court responded to questions about their decision.

“So all we can do is to create a space where everyone feels welcome and comfortable and safe (and we can’t assume at the door that we know who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community). We see this as a constantly evolving and improving process, we’re open to listening to everyone which is why this change has been made.” the venue said.

While some patrons praised that venue’s new suite of commitments and updated descriptors, others labeled the announcement as Orwellian double-speak, “bafflegab” and a “slap in the face” to long-term supporters.

Concerns about queer venues is a recurring issue

Concerns about the safety and culture in LGBTIQ+ inclusive venues has been an ongoing concern, stretching back more than a decade. The issue of safety and culture at both The Court Hotel and Connections Nightclub previously came to boiling point a decade ago.

In March 2011 a Facebook group became the focal point for discussion with concerns raised about over zealous security, an unclear banning policy and a lack of support for community groups.

The following months saw community meetings, poorly attended protests, a public condemnation from Pride WA directed at The Court Hotel and an ongoing dialogue that included a broad range of issues including bathroom access, drag performances, ID checks and many other issues.

A year later a new venue responded to the call for a new LGBTIQA+ venue in Perth, The Honey Lounge opened in Leederville in March 2012, only to close down in November, with many people unwilling to make the trip to a bar outside the well trodden pathway to venues on opposing sides of the Perth Cultural Centre.

Community concern about safety and culture came to a boiling point again in 2019 when a petition was launched calling on The Court Hotel to remove the rainbow signage from the venue. The venue took a defiant stance, boldly painting more rainbows on the outside of the building, and promising to take action over concerns about security guards behavior.

An open letter to the venue written by patron James Middleton became the most read article of the decade at Shortly afterwards, in response to calls for new LGBTIQ+ venues LAMB nightclub opened in Subiaco, but the venture was short lived.

Over the last decade both The Court and Connections Nightclub have undergone multi-million dollar renovations, making them two of the most attractive venues in the Northbridge entertainment precinct.

Graeme Watson

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