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Gavans at The Dorchester


“So when we opened Gavans, there was a bit of a blaze of publicity about having the largest gay club in Europe, on the front door, the Wolverhampton people accepted it, lovely, the club became a very successful commercial club. On three other nights it was not gay, most of the gay community believed that was Gavans on a Saturday night and that was it, it was financially the least successful of the four nights, although very busy and successful, the other three nights, giving the heterosexual community the gay camp that we knew, they called it ambience but we knew it was camp, in other words, ‘lulu’ and a lollipop on the way in, a bit of live entertainment, they were much more successful. The club was called The Dorchester Club, the other nights were rock, indie and student, and all had their own name, Rock Night at the Dorchester, Gavans at the Dorchester on a Saturday. David and I owned the Dorchester freehold.  The general public and the gay people wouldn’t get confused, if a gay person came on a Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed it and saw a queue of people on a Friday they would be under no illusion. In those days, homophobia was still (rife) on the commercial sector and on the streets at night, especially if the gays were outnumbered; I didn’t have protection for gay people, being me as well. It was quite fashionable for the general public in Wolverhampton, to attend the Dorchester, and they would proudly announce which nights they went, ‘Oh we go on a Friday’. But there was a lot of, ‘Oh, we don’t share the same glasses do we?’, and all that kind of thing, which was still very rife in the eighties. That moved on, gay people did sometimes go on the other night and mixed socially with other friends, in a gay friendly environment, it was the same door staff and owners and management every night, so there was a comfort zone. It worked the opposite; the general member of the public knew any abuse or even (negative) reference to gay people would not be tolerated. That also worked in a much bigger way, it also applied to the Asians and Afro-Caribbeans, there was no discrimination at all allowed. Therefore white couldn’t refer to black people by street names etc. It was a very much attitude-free zone, which Wolverhampton absolutely fell in love with.”

Contributed by: Bill Gavan, 56

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