One of Cork’s best-known gay bars has removed all LBGT flags and memorabilia from its premises as it prepares to host events for Fresher’s Week.
Chambers has been a self-proclaimed "favourite haunt of the LGBTQI+ community" in Cork for the past 17 years.
The bar has been a mainstay of the community – hosting drag shows and brunches on a regular basis.
Ahead of this year's Fresher's Week, the bar is advertising events through the name 'Sinners' and has postponed drag shows for a number of weeks.
In a statement issued last night, some of the bar’s regular drag queen performers said they will no longer perform in the bar in protest at the move.
"We were not made aware in advance of these changes to accommodate the coming "freshers" week," the statement said.
"The removal of all traces of our beloved LGBTQI+ safe space is simply appalling and we refuse to accept this."
Speaking to Lunchtime Live, Krystal Queer, one of these drag queens, said she was "stunned" when she entered the bar for her show last week.
"All of our gay memorabilia has been completely removed ... our pride flags, bunting, posters of the queens," she said.
"Any semblance of anything queer or gay had been completely stripped, including this logo on the wall that read, 'Chambers loves every heartbeat' – they painted it over in black.
"Everything had been removed – even the gay canopies outside had been completely removed."
View this post on Instagram
Krystal Queer said the bar has taken the opportunity to "make more cash" by "rebranding Chambers as a straight venue" for Fresher's Week.
"I was also informed the other week that my show was going to be cut for the next few weeks," she said.
"Not only were they just removing all the gay memorabilia, they were also removing the literal gay people who work there."
The drag queen said she can understand why the bar might hold a student night – but does not understand why this means they must remove the LGBT symbols.
"Why can't you have Freshers Week and night for students and just leave the bar exactly the way it is?" she said.
"They're putting us back in the closet, it is such a slap in the face to customers who have been going there for years and years.
"It's the only gay place that we have in the entire city, and it has a real loyal fan base, a real network of people because a lot of us don't feel comfortable going somewhere else."
Evan, a Cork native and Chambers regular, said the decision is the "breaking point" for LGBT patrons.
"This is the one straw that broke the camel's back for this whole city's queer community," he said.
"When I heard that it was a complete whitewash over all of the LGBT memorabilia ... that's a slap in the face to any of the community."
Evan said the "whole point" of LGBT spaces is that they provide visibility for members of the community.
"We have no specific space to go to except for Chambers, so for it to be changed in the blink of an eye overnight, is really disheartening for any of the LGBTQ+ people in Cork," he said.
Gay Project Cork member Ailsa Spindler said the bar has removed "every last vestige of reference to queer culture and LGBT community" in a "systematic way".
"To me, it seems like part of the wider problem that we're having which is definitely a backlash against LGBTQ people," they said.
Cork has recently been the target of anti-LGBT protests – with protesters gathering outside the Cork City Library regarding the distribution of some LGBTQ+ books.
"[Chambers] are undermining the wider message because they are creating the idea that somehow LGBT people aren't as welcome as the mainstream and it's the mainstream that they're pitching for and it marginalises the LGBT community," Spindler said.
Chambers Bar has not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
You can listen back here:
Image: Google Maps/Con Keating / Drag Queen Krystal Queer