London Cocktail Club and its amazing queer culture

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

16 June 2020

We spoke to both employers and employees at the bar about its continuing work to represent the LGBTQ+ community

Whilst lining up interviews with the LGBTQ+ community for the recent Pride voices article, a number of employees from London Cocktail Club (LCC) came forward very quickly, singing the company’s praises in its diversity hiring.

‘LCC seem to have an amazing queer culture beyond any other bar,’ said Cocktail QTs co-founder Hannah Lanfear. ‘I really respect that of them as employers. The diversity hire is done in a non-token way, but [still creates] a culture of diversity.’

LCC seem to have an amazing queer culture beyond any other bar

Hannah Lanfear

‘I feel like there is no judgement in terms of gender and sexuality, they really promote personality and diversity, which, coming from a small town, is really refreshing,’ says Ellie Campbell, a junior bartender at LCC’s Old Street branch. ‘I think LCC has a great understanding of people from all backgrounds and I can't fault them with equality.’

‘Over the past four-and-a-half years working for LCC I have seen the number of LGBTQ+ staff increase every year, and seen the amount of support that the company continues to give us. I’m very proud to work for this company and have done for so long because of this,’ says Cressie Lawlor, a GM at LCC Old Street who represents LCC at LGBTQ+ events.

So what is it that LCC does to foster this diverse culture? Speaking to co-founder James Hopkins and some of the LCC team, a few findings came to light…

1. Encourage diversity champions

People such as Cressie Lawlor are an important part of the workforce, says Hopkins. ‘Cressie was the first to say that she’s an outspoken member of the LGBTQ+ community, and she wanted to be a bit of a champion in the industry. She’s someone who is happy, confident and outspoken, and wants to help other people be the same. She’s shown that it’s a safe space to be outspoken too.’

2. Standardised online training

The company uses online training platform, Flow, which has different modules that people have to do, including ones based on inclusivity. These are regularly reviewed and updated, and the staff are required to revisit them again. ‘Because it’s online we can see who has and hasn’t done things,’ explains Hopkins. ‘From the off we let them know that we don’t put up with bullying or hate. We know that if we keep on top of it, and we’re vocal about it with staff, impressing it consistently, it becomes clear and it makes for a much safer, friendlier environment.’

3. Hiring practices

The things that LCC look for in hiring candidates are simple: ‘Have you got the desire, and can you demonstrate that bartending is the profession for you? Do you want to professionalise the industry?’ asks Hopkins.

The company uses online training platform, Flow, which has different modules that people have to do, including ones based on inclusivity

‘We’ve also worked with Core Recruitment, and MD Krishnan Doyle is an amazing recruiter, he’s great at engaging different parts of the industry and bringing them together.’

However, not all the employees who came forward felt the company was doing all it can. Malayka Al-abdullah, a bar manager at LCC Shoreditch, singled out the lack of representation in head office. ‘When you look at the very top, there’s none in head office. Most of head office is mostly white, mostly male, pretty euro-centric.

‘[At bar level] they have hired some notable people from the community, but I don’t think they do all that they could do,’ she continues. ‘I would love some more non-cis. As far as I know there has only been a handful.’

When questioned about company policy and facilities for trans and non-binary employees, Hopkins had this to say: ‘We have a few people who work with us who have neutral pronouns, and that’s respected by us and we make sure the team respects it. We haven’t actively asked if someone wants to be referred to as "they".’

He admits that space restraints in LCC’s bars means that there’s no staff area or gender-neutral toilets.

No company is perfect, but LCC has come a long way in the fight for inclusion. ‘For other employers that want to contribute, a lot of what needs to happen isn’t financial, it’s more time and energy,’ explains Hopkins. ‘Speak to your staff and find out what communities they’re a part of, and do what you can to support and embed yourself within that community.’

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