LGBTQI+ community 'harassed' and 'abused' at gay bars following increase in heterosexual customers

Once upon a time, gay bars were places that many straight people avoided. That's not true anymore - but it might not be such a good thing.

A new report by Metro journalist, Tess Nichol, claims the increase in heterosexuals in at least one bar is leading to the abuse of LGBTQI+ people trying to enjoy a night on the town. 

"I kept hearing stories from queer women about going to Family Bar and being sexually harassed by straight men there," Nichol told The Project.

Family Bar has been the go-to gay bar for years in Auckland. However, a number of people from the LGBTQI+ community have complained about its increasing influx of heterosexual bargoers, who appear to have a very specific agenda.

"More recently, anytime I've been there I've been groped multiple times by males," Miss Geena, a drag artist, told The Project.

"People have been hanging onto me with both arms, trying to kiss me on the cheek. I've had to physically push them off after saying no multiple times."

Family Bar visitors harassing rainbow bargoers is particularly worrying as the bar promotes itself as an inclusive space - meaning LGBTQI+ patrons believe they are safe there.

"It particularly matters in a bar that advertises itself as a gay bar," says Martin King from Pride Pledge.

"It's attracting people there for that reason, where they feel they can be safe."

"We decided to go to Family because we think we can be safe there," Miss Geena agrees, saying the downtown Auckland nightlife still, unfortunately, breeds homophobia and transphobic attitudes.

Popular club night 'Queer AF' organiser Olivia Coupe told The Project that despite the increasing popularity of gay bars showing a degree of societal progress, the "influx is starting to change the vibe".

Coupe says that while respectful heterosexuals are always more than welcome, it's the "certain crowd of people who are going there and exhibiting really predatory behaviour" that is the problem.

Coupe feels this crowd of people go to gay bars for the sole purpose of finding entertainment in harassing LGBTQI+ patrons.

"I reached out to the community and the response was so overwhelming," Coupe says.

Family Bar has defended its customers. When approached with the allegations, they issued a statement saying the claims come from "a small minority of the gay community" who "wish to segregate themselves from having any contact with heterosexuals".

The bar also reiterated their commitment to inclusivity, saying their goal is to have "one big family" of customers regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

Coupe made it clear that wasn't the case.

"It's about letting straight people know they are welcome there - but to respect the space and to remind themselves who this space is for.

"Consent is the number one thing."