The UK’s longest running, and last remaining leather and rubber fetish gay club has been saved from demolition by local community campaigners after it was decided that it was “an important community asset.”
Developers planned to tear down the Backstreet bar in Mile End, East London and build a twelve story block of 46 flats plus shops. However, local residents and the London LGBTQI community opposed the proposal on heritage grounds.
Tower Hamlets Council sided with local residents and refused planning permission to demolish the Backstreet.
The Backstreet, opened in 1985, claims to have the strictest dress code in Europe and only admits people “where leather or rubber make up the largest part of what you are wearing”.
Tower Hamlets Council deputy mayor Rachel Blake said the decision to save the bar was due to a need for diversity and safe-spaces within the area.
“It’s the last true gay fetish club and diversity matters to us. It’s important to have safe spaces,” she said.
“This kind of venue really matters to us, it matters to Tower Hamlets and to the whole of London.”
“When there’s a rise in hate crime, we must stand up for those with all backgrounds.”
Tower Hamlets Council agreed with Blake, saying demolition would “harm the long-term provision that serves the LGBT+ community.”
The decision to refuse planning permission to the developers was upheld by a planning inspector last month.
The refusal draws an end to a six year long battle between the local community and developers.
Dozens of regulars to the Backstreet wrote to council over the six years to explain the significance of the club to individuals and the community.
“When I discovered the fetish scene by going to the Backstreet as an 18-year-old, it saved my life,” one man wrote.
“It gave me a community that made me feel welcome, and embraced me flaws and all. It stopped me thinking I was odd or an outsider, [it] gave me confidence in myself, and gave me some incredible friends and mentors.”