Monday’s stormy St James’s Street meeting ended in deadlock between the residents and traders.
The packed meeting in St Mary’s Church Hall of around 60 worried residents and aggressive traders last over an hour with residents determined not to be shouted down by PVP organisers and their supporters, who some likened to rent a mob.
Stony faced residents largely managed to keep their cool even though the continuous abuse by rent a mob was at times unnerving.
The residents have endured years of terror and heartbreak as 35,000 visitors descend on their homes for an annual two-day orgy of binge drinking and all night revelry.
One local resident from Camelford Street said;
“Virtually all the residents of Camelford flee their homes, except one who has nowhere to go. We had such a battle with the pub when it was called the White Horse, but fortunately, we managed to get its licensing hours restricted.”
One publican explained that they could net as much as £40,000 in takings over Gay Pride’s two days as opposed to around £8,000 for an ordinary busy summer’s weekend.
So the suggestion that there be a comprise of only one night of noisy, debauched revelry instead of two, fell on deaf ears.
After the meeting, we went test how much trade local bars had on a chilly Monday evening in January. Our first call was to an established bar in Upper St James Street which had enough customers to give it a cheerful atmosphere.
Alas, the second, in St James’ Street, was absolutely empty bar one member of staff, forlornly awaiting Gay Pride and the deluge of customers that brings for all of its 48 hours or so.
Our third venue was a gay bar on the seafront featuring a drag act, and with enough customers to make it necessary for us to stand throughout our visit.
Over the last thirty years, the demographics of St James Street have changed. As the same with the Canal district of Manchester, gay drinkers used to congregate in order to feel safe and the bars made a good living off their custom.
However, it didn’t last as more bars opened, and they found themselves chasing fewer customers, who due to increasing tolerance for gay people in the wider community, had started to drink in their local pubs rather than travel.
Brighton’s gay community has also spread out across the City leaving St James’ Street bars empty.
But rather than just rely on Gay Pride’s 35,000 customers turning up for one weekend of the year and overflowing onto the streets, surely it would be prudent to spread them out over the whole year?
A smaller number each weekend, which would keep the bars and hotels full but not upset the residents, surely should be welcomed?
But as the gay community has now stretched out across the City then the logical step is to move PVP to one of the venues which can handle this number of visitors such as Madeira Drive or the Amex stadium.
No responsible Council should be encouraging a 48 hour uncontrolled binge drinking spree just to prop up a handful of ailing bars.
The government’s health warnings are loud and clear- 2 units of alcohol then off to bed.
Walking along Brighton’s busy North Street at 5 pm, judging by the size of the crowd, it is clear there is no shortage of people out and about, even on a chilly weekday winter’s evening.
The nearby cafes are full with young people out for a good time. Walking up St James’s Street the cafes here appear full too.
Another reason why the pubs are struggling is the demographics have changed since 2009 when Britain opened its borders to East Europeans. Many appear to eschew an ‘early to bed and early to rise’ work ethic.
Some have bought bedsits as a first step onto the property ladder. The St James’s Street area is changing and much quieter late at night.
It is time for the pubs to also change with the times and seek local custom from people who live and work in the district rather than just rely on the annual gay pride deluge.