One of the most beloved gay bars in the United Kingdom is the Golden Cross in Cardiff. It’s believed to be the oldest LGBTQ bar in Wales. The city center pub dates back to the late 1800s.
It was rebuilt in 1903 by Brains brewery and is known for its distinctive Victorian-era tiling. In fact, it’s believed to have one of only 14 remaining ceramic bar counters in the UK. This is one of the reasons it’s a Grade-II listed historic building.
It’s been operating as a gay pub for approximately the last 21 years. Its current landlord is Robert Burnett. In pre-pandemic times, you’d find it regularly packed out with its regular entertainment, karaoke and drag shows. Because much of Wales beyond of Cardiff is pretty rural, visitors travel from far and wide.
“We normally do cabaret four or five nights a week – our customers regularly travel to Cardiff to visit the gay bars because they don’t have those connections locally,” Burnett recently told The Guardian.
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When the pub was forced to close down because of the pandemic, resident drag queen Baroness Mary Golds began hosting shows online and asking people to donate money via a GoFundMe. Such was the love for the bar that they were overwhelmed by the support they received.
“I was expecting we’d raise £1,000 over four or five weeks but we reached £1,000 on that first night, thanks to the way our customers supported us,” says Burnett.
Given how hard times were for everyone, Burnett wanted to share the money.
“We’ve raised almost £7,000 for charities like Homeless Hope, which looks after the feet of the homeless. We’ve also sent ‘love bundles’ to performers, because performing arts – and the performers themselves – have been hit hard by Covid.”
Other charities to benefit included Cardiff and Vale Health Charity and Cardiff Food Bank.
At the moment, the Golden Cross has reopened but some restrictions are still in place. Burnett and his team have been able to expand their outdoor area, and he says he’s amazed at how the regulars have continued to support the place.
“I was due to leave at the end of the year – I’d said after five years I’d move on – but the community has supported us through the worst year in history for hospitality, so how can I leave now?
“Yesterday, I walked into the beer garden and it was blowing a gale but was full of people sat there in raincoats, getting soaked. They just raised their glasses and went ‘cheers’. It says a lot about how much they value this place.”
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Drag queen Mary Golds has been working at the venue for the past five years. She told GayCities the venue was special for reasons beyond its historic listing status: “It has this way of bringing people together. The team running the Golden are like a family and customers, acts, and people passing by see and feel this. It really is a wonderful experience to be part of either working here just popping in for a pint.”
Landlord Rob told GayCities: “The Golden is the last of the old-school LGBTQ+ venues in Cardiff and indeed Wales. The old characteristic charm is echoed by the warm welcome we like to give. Our job and privilege is to provide memories for people in a safe space.
“I don’t see the venue as just a community, but more as a hub and almost a co-operative as it’s here to serve its supporters. It’s a complete honor to steer this ship.”
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