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Does The Court Still Deserve To Be Called A “Gay Bar”?

It was 2010 when I first stepped into what was then called The Court Hotel (now shortened to The Court).

A safe space for the LGBT community to be able to freely express themselves and dance the night away, free from fear of judgement or even worse, harassment.

It was and still is one of only two gay venues in Perth, the other being Connections Nightclub, so it was always a popular bar for the gay community and over the years has only soared in patronage.

With the increase in popularity came the increase in size and in 2017, The Court expanded with renovations that brought new upstairs areas and “upgrades” (downgrades in my eyes) to areas downstairs.

While the renovations were grand and the then-beer garden turned into an epic club-like dancefloor with giant screens is “cool” and all, the character and warm, friendly vibe The Court always had was lost.

But this is just the beginning of the downward spiral that ensued ever since its transformation.

As the larger venue brought in larger crowds, it was the type of crowd it was attracting that was slowly turning the place upside down, one homophobic insult at a time.

Young, [straight] teens with zero respect flocked to The Court as it became the go-to club to party and for the guys there, to “pick up chicks”.

It’s always been known that straight girls come to The Court because it was a safe place for them to dance and have a great time with their gay besties, without worrying about sleazebags trying to hit on them.

But as these guys and girls attended The Court more and more, a shift in the ratio of straight people to LGBT was happening and it was turning into less of a “gay venue” and more of “gay-friendly” venue – “friendly” being rather ironic.

Straight men and women would fill the club and the reports of verbal abuse, harassment and antagonising grew.

I’ve witnessed multiple instances of anti-social behaviour that I never would have thought could have happened there and what made matters even worse, I watched security do absolutely nothing about it (what are you even there for?)

On my Facebook feed, it’s person after person recounting the exact same thing. Either they couldn’t believe the shift in the crowd or had horror stories of their own.

It’s no surprise a petition on Change.org, that was only started yesterday, gained almost 2000 signatures from both those in the community, pleading with The Court to make it safer or to remove the gay pride because it doesn’t accurately represent the venue anymore.

All hope isn’t lost however and The Court after many, many months of people venting their frustrations has finally addressed those concerns with a public statement.

“We’ve noticed a few of you have expressed frustration recently at how some new patrons have come in to our amazing venue but not respected the values that we stand for…” it reads.

Well, a little more than a few, but sure. You can read the full statement here.

They promise to “work with their security team” to handle complaints correctly, have “RSA officers”, which stands for “Rainbows, Safety and Attitude” who are apparently there to assist you if you experience anti-social behaviour and have a new, more visible code of conduct at the entrance.

I do hope The Court can turn around its tainted image and sure, it’s up to the LGBT community to show their support and keep attending this great venue, but it will interesting to see if they do as it’s felt like The Court has not supported them these past few months and I know many who don’t wish to go ever again.

As gay people in society are becoming more and more accepted, with same-sex marriage finally being legalised and shifts in attitude growing, maybe The Court is less-needed nowadays to be that “safe space”.

I now go to many new and “trendy” bars that are popping up all over Perth and feel much safer than I have for a long time at The Court.

But for the young gay, lesbian and trans kids who do want a gay venue they can feel comfortable to be themselves at, I truly hope The Court puts its money where its mouth is and makes it a safe and welcoming venue again.

Only time will tell.

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