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News / Nightlife

Controversial ‘men-only’ club XXL at risk of shutting

Controversial ‘men-only’ club XXL at risk of shutting

One of London’s biggest gay spaces, Club XXL, is under threat. The club, which has served the bear community since 2000 and operates a strict ‘male-only’ door policy – effectively excluding other sections of the queer community – wrote on June 28 that it’s been served with a three-month eviction notice.

XXL’s home for the past seven years has been Pulse, a cavernous Southwark venue which is now part of a massive redevelopment project including flats, offices and a hotel. Sadly, the story of a gay space being forced to make way for upscale redevelopment is a familiar one. Club XXL pointed out on Facebook that it’s now the only permanent LGBTQ+ venue in Southwark, the London borough with the second-densest population of LGBTQ+ residents. ‘This is a clear case of homophobia,’ the club claimed.

However, because of its exclusionary door policy, Club XXL’s potential demise hasn’t been greeted with universal dismay. Last September, a group of drag queens staged a protest outside the venue after a punter alleged that he was turned away at the door for wearing heels. Owner Mark Ames wrote on Facebook at the time, in a post he later deleted: ‘You wanna ware [sic] heels!? Try shoving one up your arse the other in your mouth,’ adding: ‘XXL IS FOR MEN WHO WANT MEN!’ Following Ames’s comments, drag queen Myra Dubois cancelled her planned performance at the club, but XXL’s door policy still prohibits punters from wearing ‘female shoes, clothes, wigs, overtly female hairstyles and make up ’. XXL even says that ‘If you turn up wearing any [of these items] or are found in the venue having changed you will be escorted from the premises.’

At the time of writing, Club XXL plans to march at Pride in London under the banner ‘Save Our Scene’. The owners have said they are ‘committed to keeping XXL open and serving the bear and wider London gay community’. Despite being pictured disparagingly on XXL’s Facebook cover photo with her hands covering her eyes, London’s Night Czar Amy Lamé has publicly backed the campaign. As the clock ticks down, Club XXL will continue to welcome as many as 2,000 men on Saturday nights in its current Southwark home.  

Club XXL is at Pulse on Saturdays.

Check out more of London's best LGBTQ+ clubs here.

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