Historic gay sauna faces threat of closure. Campaigners say every last one in the UK could be at risk
An historic gay sauna may be forced to close its doors forever after insurers inexplicably denied it coverage.
The Pink Broadway sauna has welcomed customers to Southampton’s East Street for the past two decades and had been insured without problems the whole time.
But it’s now under threat of closure after the current insurer, Markerstudy, suddenly refused to renew the sauna’s liability insurance policy.
“Given that insurance is mandatory, the refusal of insurance to a lawful business is disturbing. It could force the sauna out of business in a region of the country where there are already too few gay meeting and entertainment venues,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“Whatever people think about the adult services industry, it is legal and should not be refused the cover it needs to operate. If rejection by insurers becomes standard it could mean the closure of all gay saunas in the UK.”
The sauna’s owner, Nick Batt, has been attempting to renew his insurance policy since November 2020. In that time he’s sought help from multiple brokers and insurers, including the Association of British Insurers, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Federation of Small Businesses.
After receiving no support he reached out to Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman MP, John Glenn MP and several local CEOs – all to no avail.
“I cannot get to the bottom of why there is reluctance for the above people to help and advise, whether it is homophobic or just embarrassment,” he said. “I have been told at various times ‘Saunas are a fire risk…’ What about the last 20 years? ‘Potential water leaks….’ What about the last 20 years?
“No one in the public eye, it seems, has the balls to fight this issue out in the open.”
Batt suspects his insurance was denied because the sauna is an adult business – but says there has always been a niche “adult entertainment” arm to insurance, and can’t understand why the industry is now “turning their backs on us”.
Shockingly, he claims the Federation of Small Businesses advised him to remove the adult content on his website and change his business model entirely – something he is loathe to do to his clients.
“It may well be that it’s not exactly a homophobic injustice, but it certainly affects gay communities across the country,” he said. “The potential loss will have a huge effect on my customers and friends.
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“It’s my concern that places like mine go to renew their policies, they will not be able to… London has lost seven saunas this year, and I don’t want to end up closing for good.”
A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses told PinkNews: “The insurance industry must not discriminate against LGBT+ businesses such as this, which have as much right to access insurance as anyone else.
“FSB Insurance Service, as a specialist small business insurance broker, has been trying hard to help this business find the insurance cover it needs, to continue to operate.”
Markerstudy Group strongly refutes the allegation that they refused to renew Pink Broadway’s insurance due to it being “an adult business”.
“Cover was not refused due to the type of business,” the company said. “Markerstudy Insurance Services Limited ceased offering commercial property insurance of any type in December 2019, due to capacity being withdrawn by their underwriter.
“At that time, renewals and pipeline new business was honoured. Markerstudy was therefore unable to provide cover for Pink Broadway when the policy lapsed in January this year as it no longer offers a commercial combined policy. This applies to all commercial property types, and is not risk specific.”