The Backstreet, a 34-year-old leather bar in London’s East End, has been saved after dozens of men wrote in to the Tower Hamlets Council urging them to block development of the site into a high-rise, telling the council what the bar had meant to them over the years.
The Guardian reports: ‘Dozens of men who regularly visit the Backstreet, which boasts the “strictest fetish dress code in Europe”, wrote to the council during the six-year planning battle to explain the importance of the club to them. “When I discovered the fetish scene by going to the Backstreet as an 18-year-old, it saved my life,” one man wrote. “It gave me a community that made me feel welcome, and embraced me flaws and all. It stopped me thinking I was odd or an outsider, [it] gave me confidence in myself, and gave me some incredible friends and mentors.” A young man currently 21 and much younger than the Backstreet’s average clientele, said he would be gutted if the club closed as it was his favourite place on earth, and he “saved like crazy for [his] leather gear”.’
Tower Hamlets Council ruled that the bar should be kept and blocked the 12-story high-rise apartment building development, saying that it would “harm the long-term provision of a nightclub that serves the LGBT+ community”.
Said Cllr Rachel Blake, the borough’s deputy mayor: “It is the last true gay fetish club, and diversity matters to us. This kind of venue really matters to us, it matters to Tower Hamlets and to the whole of London. It is very important to have safe spaces for the whole community.”