The man behind a new venture being advertised on social media over the last few days as a club catering to members of the LGBT community says response has been overwhelmingly positive so far and is reflective of a paradigm shift in how Barbadians are seeing that segment of society.
Well known entrepreneur, Charles “Charlie Spice” Lewis, told Barbados TODAY that ever since he started advertising his new club, G Lounge Barbados, on social media over the last 48 hours word has spread quickly, and has been mostly very positive.
“We have had 75 applications for membership and another 60 inquiries (about membership). I have also spoken to visitors from the LGBT community who are over the moon about it and are even willing to extend their vacations here so they can patronize it when it opens later this month. I have also had a positive response from some prominent Barbadians who say they have been longing for a place like this.”
While acknowledging there were other clubs with the G Lounge name in New York and Philadelphia among other places, Lewis said the name of his establishment was distinct enough from his counterparts’ not to create any problems, and indeed he had reached out to them regarding cross-promotion opportunities.
The businessman said he had encountered no legal difficulties with establishing the club, since it was located on a property he already owned. He added: “It is a legitimate bar I am operating, not a place where people will be indulging in sexual activities. As a matter of fact, there are gay patrons in every place of entertainment in Barbados; no one screens people at the doors based on their perceived sexual orientation!”
He added: “The only thing I would caution club members on, especially the visitors, is public display of affection owing to the nature of Barbadian society for the most part.”
According to reports, advertisements on social media for the club have requested “gay” or “gay-friendly” staff, which might generate controversy in some circles, but Lewis countered this. “Anyone is free to apply for a job at the club, but I have specifically included this because it is important that our employees do not offend anyone, even if they are not necessarily gay themselves.”
On that score, “Charlie Spice” said he grew up in a Barbadian society that was highly homophobic, but his attitude towards the homosexual community changed after he resided in Europe and the United States for many years. “After living in those places I realized people there were a lot more open-minded and tolerant of LGBT people living among them, and although I am straight, I have many friends who are gay. I am comfortable with my own sexuality, so their preferences do not bother me in any way.”
He has also noticed that younger Barbadians are more tolerant of the LGBT community than their forebears. “I am particularly excited about this project because it is coming at a time when Barbadians’ attitudes towards the LGBT community are changing, especially among the millennials.
“In the past, you found people suppressed their homosexuality, but now they are becoming more open about it. My experience abroad showed me that homophobia is a learned behaviour as opposed to a natural reaction, and younger Barbadians are becoming more open-minded on this matter.”