Long read: Tales from the LGBTQ+ hospitality community

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

10 June 2020

To celebrate Pride month, Imbibe spoke to some members of the LGBTQ+ community about their experiences working in the drinks industry. Here’s what they had to say…

Hannah Lanfear, director of The Mixing Class

In the 21 years I’ve worked in the hospitality industry, for gay women I feel that the environment has come on leaps and bounds.

Part of the reason for setting up [LGBTQ+ network] Cocktail QTs, for people that work in the spirits industry, is that we want to give people a space to be able to connect with their culture and sexuality in a way that perhaps they haven’t been able to yet.

There are a few things that we’d like to see in this industry: how do we welcome persons who are non-binary or trans into a space? We’re not well tuned to this; most businesses have binary bathrooms.

We need to have more training on welcoming people – why not adopt a more neutral greeting that doesn’t misgender someone?

Hannah Lanfear

We need to have more training on welcoming people – why not adopt a more neutral greeting that doesn’t misgender someone? Misgendering someone is such an aggressive thing to do.

One in five young people don’t feel like they fit a binary demographic. If these numbers are increasing, our awareness should be increasing, and our environments should be adjusted to accommodate that.

Anyone interested in learning more about gender diversity should go to genderedintelligence.co.uk.


Anonymous bartender

I identify as a gay male and have worked as a bartender for 10 years now. Last year I was working for an agency at a Pride month event, where I was targeted in a homophobic attack by four people. They found me on Grindr and roughed me up pretty badly – cracked my skull, fractured my cheek and broke some ribs.

The venue where I worked didn’t give me any sick pay despite me being in hospital, and I had to return to work while still recovering. They removed my head bartender title and made me a bar back due to being ‘too ugly to be seen on the bar’.

The operations manager docked my pay by 50% when I refused to sleep with him

Anonymous

I stuck at it, but then the operations manager at the time docked my pay by 50% when I refused to sleep with him. I left soon after.

I’ve suffered from PTSD and freak out when people touch me from behind without warning. So using ‘backs’ is a must whenever I’m working.

Luckily, where I am now everyone is lovely and very understanding and they do things to make me comfortable.


Lily Waite, founder of The Queer Brewing Project

I’ve worked in a few pubs. I faced more homophobia and transphobia behind a bar than anywhere else. There’s a tendency for hospitality staff, especially in pubs, to be treated poorly by ignorant customers. When you look visibly different, this can be much worse. When you add alcohol to the mix, it can embolden certain people to behave abusively.

I fell into working in beer after graduating university. The Queer Brewing Project came about after a collaboration I brewed with Marble Brewery under my own name: after seeing the response and the effect it had on LGBTQ+ friends, I saw how I might use beer for positive change.

For all the talk of diversity and inclusion, it seems that few concrete practices have been put into place

Lily Waite

The drinks industry has a huge role to play in combating numerous issues. I’d like it to be less homogenous. It’s still generally male-dominated, still predominantly straight and cisgender, and mostly white.

For all the talk of diversity and inclusion, it seems that few concrete practices have been put into place, and after the token diversity panel has finished and the rainbow flags have been taken down after Pride, it just goes back to the way it’s always been, and minorities fall to the wayside once more.


Chelsie Bailey, general manager, Happiness Forgets  

There’s not a lot of us that are out and proud, especially when I first started bartending.

It was quite rare to see a successful female bartender, but it was even more rare for gay or queer bartenders. However I think the industry in the UK are quite accepting of it.

We create such a safe atmosphere for our guests, and I want to do that for the staff

Chelsie Bailey

Any homophobia I’ve experienced is from customers, when I’ve been dealing with drunk, difficult people and they get offensive. It’s pretty obvious that I’m a lesbian and that’s their go-to.

It’s just the ignorant bullshit they say: ‘I don’t want a gay drink’, ‘a gay glass’, and that upsets me, but I’ve learnt how to be sassy and call them out on it.

It’s important for bartenders to know it’s OK to be who you are in our industry, not just for gay people but for trans people too. We create such a safe atmosphere for our guests, and I want to do that for the staff. It’s really important for them to feel safe and accepted for who they are.


Jan Konetzki, director of wine, Ten Trinity Square

As a cisgender gay man, I’m open and proud. It’s important, because we don’t have enough LGBTQ+ role models in the wine world. 

Generally I’ve felt accepted, but there’s been a couple of uneducated people who behave like arseholes. I had one situation where somebody gave me a comment which was meant in pure camaraderie, saying I’d be happy to help open a chef’s jacket, but it just showed how misconceived my sexuality can be. So I had to put up boundaries. I replied: ‘Just because you’re too stupid to unbutton your jacket, you need a gay man to do it for you’. 

I’ve always wondered why we’re not inviting enough to attract more members of the LGBTQ+ community. That’s sad and we miss out on a lot of talent

Jan Konetzki

We need to think about how we talk to people around us in general. Words can do a lot of damage to our mental health. 

At that stage I was already a manager, and I realised that by the power of my influence as a manager I felt there was a duty to share. I often make a point of coming out to guests and staff in the restaurant, telling them I would be going to the cinema with my boyfriend, rather than saying partner.

In the restaurant environment, I have never seen anyone who’s transgender or fluid. I’ve always wondered why we’re not inviting enough to attract more members of the LGBTQ+ community. That’s sad and we miss out on a lot of talent.

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