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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Mick Barry TD on Twitter Screenshot from video taken at the protest in Cork last night.
Cork City

Over 500 people protest after Cork gay bar rebrands for university Freshers' week

The protestors gathered on the courthouse steps across the road from the venue last night.

HUNDREDS OF MEMBERS of the LGBTQI+ community in Cork gathered in the city centre last night for a peaceful demonstration following a decision by popular gay bar, Chambers, to remove rainbow flags and drag queen posters during Freshers’ Week in the city.

Chambers Bar, on Washington Street, has been a firm favourite with the LGBTQI+ community for the past eighteen years.

The protestors gathered on the courthouse steps across the road from the venue amid heavy rain last night.

Attendees held placards with the words “We are here to stay- you can’t paint the gay away”.

In a statement UCC Students’ Union expressed their dissatisfaction with what they describe as the “rebranding” of Chambers bar to ‘Sinners’ for Freshers’ Week 2023.

We have seen the discourse online and heard from students who are quite upset and shocked at this decision.”

“We understand that Chambers has in the past hosted ‘Sinners’ nights during the big college weeks but to go as far as to rebrand the premises and eliminate any LGBTQ+ flags from the exterior of the building is a step too far,” the Union said.

“Students are upset about this decision and are frustrated that the only queer bar and queer nightlife space in Cork City has taken down their LGBTQ+ decor in a clear attempt to make the premises seemingly more palatable to non-queer students.”

Cork Pride also issued a statement in which it expressed its disappointing at what has occurred at Chambers bar.

“Just a little over a month following the Cork Pride festival, they have chosen to completely erase any semblance of being an LGBT+ focused venue,” the group said.

“This decision blatantly disregards the talented Queens who grace their stage and the LGBT+ community they target for their business.

“Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this situation, it is essential for our community to recognise and support venues that genuinely stand with us, rather than commodifying our identities when convenient, only to cast us aside when it doesn’t serve their interests.”

Meanwhile, drag artist Krystle Queer told the Neil Prendeville Show, on Cork’s Red FM, that Chambers bar has always had a loyal following in the gay community.

“It is the one safe place we have in the city where we can go and be absolutely ourselves,” she said.

“If you go on to Chambers website it says ‘Chambers is the heart of Cork drag in the city’

I know business is business but ethics and morals need to be brought in to the question.”

“Yes, this is a business but this is the one queer place in the entire city. You have morals to uphold. And you need to be taking care of this community,” the drag artist said.

“The theme of Chambers is gay so why are they covering it up completely, changing the venue, posters of us removed and putting us back in the closet for the sake of a few bucks off students?”

Former Ms Gay Ireland Stefanie Fogarty told the show that she was heartened by the large turnout at the demonstration last night.

“We did it in a peaceful manner. We were full of hope and love because of the amount of people supporting us,” she said.

“People were beeping [in their cars]. We had a couple of councillors and TD’s show up. It meant a lot.

[Chambers] is the only place I feel comfortable going clubbing and dancing. To not have access to dance and be myself is heartbreaking.”

It is understood that eight drag artists who regularly perform at Chambers bar no longer plan to work there following the controversy of the last week.

Cork Labour councillor John Maher says that pride flags and LGBTQI+ safe spaces are not just for Christmas or the August bank holiday.

“They are not just a seasonable bauble that you can put up and take down without drawing attention. Chambers’ actions are disappointing and smack of greed and profiteering to me. Now more than ever the community needs real allies and proper safe spaces,” the councillor said.

Cork Solidarity TD Mick Barry recorded a video message at the protest. Deputy Barry says that Chambers bar can’t take money from the gay community for 51 weeks a year and then “turf” them out for a week in order to cash in on Freshers week at Cork colleges.

“We need safe spaces for the Queer community in the city,” Barry said in Twitter

Management at the venue told Red FM that the “Sinners” student nights were introduced in Chambers a few years ago.

“As has been the case since 2016 we’ve hosted student nights at ‘Sinners’ for all students during the third level terms. So just in case anyone is worried, nothing has changed, and Chambers will be as it has been every weekend, since the day we opened our doors 18 years ago.”

Olivia Kelleher