The London pub at the centre of a homophobia row closed its doors today after hundreds of people committed to attend a "gay kiss-in" at the venue.
The John Snow pub in Soho, central London, became the focus of all this attention when James Bull and Jonathan Williams were asked to leave on Wednesday night by a staff member who allegedly described the couple’s kissing as "obscene".
Williams tweeted about the incident, which propelled him and Bull, who were on their first date, to the attention of national media, leading to plans for a "gay kiss-in" Facebook event, scheduled for 7pm on Friday.
The John Snow, perhaps wary of the impending siege of gay people, closed at around 3.30pm, leaving bemused drinkers locked out on the street with beverages in hand, according to one bystander.
About 300 people attended the scheduled kiss-in, which took place despite the closure of the pub and just after 7pm mass co-ordinated kissing took place in the street. There were cheers and whoops from the encouraging growing crowd. "It’s still a victory," said Paul Shetler, a senior director at an IT firm. "They’ve wound up losing a night’s takings because they couldn’t have a bunch of men with tongues in each others’ mouths."
The event had only had a day’s worth of planning, being started in the early hours of Thursday morning by Paul Shetler, after hearing about the incident on twitter.
According to media reports of the incident, Bull and Williams had dined in Covent Garden on Wednesday evening before strolling to the John Snow, a bar that Williams visits about once a week.
The date followed its natural progression but when the pair began to kiss they were asked to leave the pub, first by a man claiming to be the landlord, who said their display of affection was "bothering" him, and later by a woman in staff uniform who said she was the landlady and found their kissing "obscene".
Bull, 23, and Williams, 26, deny having behaved in any unseemly way. "We weren’t being over the top," Williams said. "I’m not the kind of person to do that kind of thing in public." After leaving the pub, Bull, who said he was physically sick following the confrontation, called the police – who are investigating the incident – while Williams turned to Twitter: "Seven years in London & I’ve never been made to feel bad for being gay. 45 min ago the John Snow pub, W1F had me removed for kissing a date," he tweeted.
His post was retweeted hundreds of times and spotted by Shetler. "Rather than just accepting it, I thought we should just go there and have a massive kiss-in," he said. Shetler switched focus from one social networking website to another, and the Facebook event "gay kiss-in" was born, to an "overwhelming" response.
The event urged same-sex individuals to engage in passionate kissing in the pub. "Don’t talk, just kiss," Shetler wrote, oh and added "Don’t buy anything."
The John Snow has refused to comment on Bull and Williams’s allegations, while Samuel Smith’s brewery, which operates the pub, has not replied to calls from the both mainstream and gay media.
The pub closed its doors at around 3.30pm on Friday, according to Richard Lally, an investment adviser for a film finance company directly opposite. "We noticed a lot of people coming out and we thought it was a bit strange as they all still had drinks in their hands," he said.
Lally added that after the pub closed "loads of people" began to arrive. "I’m not really sure why they’ve closed it. It’s the worst thing they could have done – they should have just let it happen," Lally said.
Natalie Curran, a 31-year-old TV producer, said she was drinking outside the pub when it was closed. "The guy on the door said the landlord didn’t want to stay open because of the number of gays who might come," she said.
“I applaud all of the people that turned up for the kiss-in” Said gay rights campaigner Jason Shaw. “This demonstration of love and public affection is a peaceful yet forceful way to raise attention to behaviour that is simply unacceptable by a pub, or any service establishment.”