Punch Taverns says it has begun an internal investigation after the deputy manager of its Greencoat Boy pub in Westminster allegedly told the Labour Party’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) group that he would not have accepted the group’s booking had he have known they were gay.

The comments sparked condemnation from senior Labour figures including leadership candidate Ed Balls, Sarah Brown, the wife of former prime minister Gordon Brown and former deputy prime minister John Prescott. The Labour LGBT group complained to the police who have begun an investigation.

In a statement to PinkNews.co.uk, the company said: “Punch Taverns seeks to provide open and welcoming venues to everyone. We are shocked and saddened that the LGBT Labour did not experience this at The Greencoat Boy last night and apologise unreservedly.

“Across our estate, diversity and inclusion are a core part of our ethics and are clearly referenced in our recruitment process, our equal opportunities policy and training. We would like to stress that this is an isolated incident; we have a good track record on equal opportunities and do not tolerate homophobia in our pubs, whether from guests to other guests, or involving our employees. 

“We are currently conducting a full investigation of the incident and the Deputy General Manager will not be on site until this investigation is concluded. We are co-operating fully with the police and plan to meet with the Labour LGBT Group early next week to discuss how we can work together to further improve our policies and procedures. 
 
In addition, we have this morning contacted all of our general managers and pub teams to remind them of our equal opportunity policy and will seek to work with external partners to further enhance our training to ensure that inclusion remains at the heart of it.”

The row began when the Labour LGBT group posted the following message on social media platform Twitter: “Manager at The Greencoat Boy near Westminster told members he would have refused the #LGBTLabour booking if he’d known it was an LGBT group!”.

The alleged comments sparked a visit from the police, who were photographed interviewing members of the group inside the pub.

Sarah Brown posted the following message on Twitter: “very sad to hear that the Greencoat Boy shown as homophobic in taking LGBT booking – but good to see so many are concerned here.”

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott Tweeted: “40 years ago we campaigned against a Hull pub that banned ‘women & queers’ This is disgraceful. Fully back you #greencoatboy “

The #greencoatboy hashtag was yesterday among the most Tweeted on the social media platform.

Ed Balls, a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party described the alleged incident as “really shocking” and Labour MEP Michael Cashman has led calls for a boycott of Punch Taverns who own the pub. A boycott campaign organised on Facebook has already signed up hundreds of supporters.