In an email sent to members of the LGBTQ society last week, Poptarts’ DJ and promoter Sam Brandon claimed that from Tuesday 16 October, the night would be moving to The Plush Lounge, Oxford’s only exclusively LGBTQ club, due to “increasing security threats upon LGBTQ customers.”
Brandon claimed that last Tuesday a man who was known by Baby Love security staff to be undesirable was granted entry, before being seen smoking inside the venue. He was also reported to have shouted insults such as “faggot” and “queen” at customers, and told them “you should all get AIDS and die.”
The promoter said: “Bar staff tried to shush him, but were laughing. This highlights the issues there are here. They just don’t know how to deal with homophobic abuse.”
However, in an interview with The Oxford Student, Baby Love’s owner Martin Forde strongly denied this claim. He said: “Let me start by saying that I am gay. The whole idea that I would tolerate homophobic behaviour is completely ridiculous.”
He added: “Gay bars have supported me for such a long time on a personal level. I am now in a position to give back to the community, and have kept Poptarts going even through the quietest times. It is a responsibility and something I take very seriously.”
According to Forde, Brandon had in fact been planning a move to The Plush Lounge long before Tuesday’s incident occurred.
“Sam is using this isolated incident to justify his move to Plush,” he said. “He wants to increase his business there and this has nothing to do with bringing the community together. This will only split it apart.
“But Poptarts was started by me over eight years ago, so it is not Sam’s to move.”
Brandon denied that he will gain financially from starting the new night at The Plush Lounge, and has since backed down from his claim that Poptarts will have a “new home”. In a further message posted to the LGBTQ society’s Facebook page he refers to the new night as “still unnamed.”
Benjamin Goodson, a recent graduate from Hertford and former Poptarts regular, commented on the introduction of the new gay night, saying: “While Baby Love once provided a rare opportunity for LGBTQsoc to forget its members’ differences and come together, I can only imagine this new night at Plush dividing the already divided LGBTQsoc further.”
He added: “I look back to Tuesday evenings with a warm heart: it was the ever-reliable source of LGBTQ liberation and fun, a place where one was certain to see friends and have a great time.
“If, on a return trip to Oxford, a choice has to be made between Plush and Baby Love, ’tis from the latter’s pole that I will be found swinging.”
A female member of St Hilda’s who did not wish to be named said: “I was greatly saddened and upset to hear that Babylove was considering ceasing to host Poptarts. The night is always energetic, diverse, accepting and – above all – incredibly fun. Poptarts offers a fantastic alternative to the rest of Oxford’s nightlife, and as such my loyalty will always remain with it on a Tuesday.”
Other Baby Love regulars have welcomed this development. Andrew Boynton, a third year student at Brookes, said: “I’ve always been a fan of Baby Love, but don’t see what harm this new night can do. In fact I think it will give more choice and variety to punters, as well as breathe new life into Oxford’s gay scene.”
For those concerned that Poptarts at Baby Love would cease to exist, Martin Forde offered the following words of reassurance: “Don’t worry. Poptarts is to stay at Babylove and this week entry will be £2 with a free shot on arrival, so let’s have a good time. Tuesday nights here will be gay whatever happens.”
Oxford University LGBTQ society President Simone Webb declined to comment but confirmed in an email to members that Poptarts would be continuing at Baby Love alongside the new night at Plush.