The Peel Hotel says it’s happy with a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) decision to allow it to refuse certain people entry to the venue.

Controversy first surrounded the well-known Collingwood gay pub when it won the right in 2007 to be able to refuse entry to heterosexual people and lesbians.

Peel Hotel owner Tom McFeely told the Star Observer he was satisfied with the new exemption which has effectively removed a reference to refuse entry on the grounds of sexuality, but gives the venue the right to refuse a person if they upset the “character” of the venue.

“It’s actually a better exemption than what we had before,” McFeely said.

“With the Charter [of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006], and to do with privacy legislation, we can’t just turn around and say, ‘Right, I’m knocking you back because you’re straight’.

“It’s just not as black and white and in your face, it’s more about the character and safety and I think that’s a much better way of putting it.”

The new exemption states the Peel Hotel has the right to refuse or restrict entry to its venue where it believes on reasonable grounds a person attempting to enter the venue would “adversely affect the safety or comfort of those within the venue, or would adversely affect the character of the venue as primarily a venue for male homosexual patrons”.

The exemption has been granted on the proviso the venue explains to prospective patrons the nature of the pub and allows them the choice of whether or not to enter. The Peel will also be allowed to advertise its policy.

“We normally never ask people [their sexuality] anyway,” McFeely said.

“Most of the time we say, ‘Do you know what type of venue it is?’, and that’s our stock standard line. They’ll normally turn around and say, we’re gay and the rest of it.”

In her ruling, VCAT senior member Cate McKenzie said she accepted the Peel’s evidence that gay men who express affection can be sometimes subjected to “insult, ridicule, derision and even violence”.

“I accept [McFeely’s] evidence that if the character of the venue is not maintained, gay male patrons will feel less comfortable there, less able to express intimacy and may well be regarded as some kind or spectacle or entertainment. They may well be less free from the possibility of insult, derision or even violence.”

McFeely admitted the first exemption he sought for the venue had kept straight women and lesbians away.

“It’s a sort of case-by-case basis with us, unfortunately when we got the first exemptions, a lot of straight people and lesbians who enjoyed the Peel — who frankly we had no problems with — thought they would have been knocked back. So they’ve in fact stayed away.”

“It’s taking us quite some time to let everyone know, everyone’s welcome, it just depends on the night and depends who you are. I would like to encourage a more diverse crowd come to the Peel.”

The new exemptions will last for three years.

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