Scarlet Coat


The Scarlet Coat

19a Union Street (basement exit in Fiennes Court off Fairfax Street), BS1. c. 1984-90.

The earliest known reference is in Bristol Gay Switchboard day book; in January 1984 the Scarlet Coat was being run as a restaurant by two gay women, with women-only discos every Thursday and Saturday night. The transformation from restaurant to full-time club must have happened shortly afterwards.

The owners were a couple called Jane and Bernie. Jane was said to have previously served in the Hong Kong Police. You generally entered it from a doorway in Union Street and went downstairs. The exit was at the back into a courtyard off Fairfax Street. It was one room with about four rectangular tables with benches on one side, one or two round tables and chairs on the other side with the dance floor in the middle. In 1994 the same premises were occupied by a gay club called Just.

Jane M:

Unfortunately it was next door to a straight strip club (the She Club) and one night in 1989 some of the male customers from the strip club began an unprovoked physical attack on lesbians leaving the club via the Fairfax Street exit. Jane and some other women went to defend the women who were being attacked but were overwhelmed by the men and some of them, Jane included, ended up in hospital. I think it closed shortly after the attack.

  9 Responses to “Scarlet Coat”

  1. Jane Hopewell sadly passed away tonight 27th Feb 2012. she will be sadly missed.

  2. I recently came across some minutes from an ‘Open Lesbian Meeting’ held on 18th May 1989. These were meetings at which the Lesbian Rep on the city council’s Women’s Committee met with any Lesbians who wanted to go along. From this one I found that the attack on women leaving The Scarlet Coat happened on Saturday 13th May 1989. I have reproduced the report of this from the minutes in full below.
    “Trouble Outside Scarlet Coat
    A couple of women reported to the meeting that on Saturday 13th May about 15-20 lesbians were beaten up outside the Scarlet Coat, three women ended up in hospital. The Police were informed about men hanging around outside the Coat by two women who left early but they didn’t do anything. At the end of the night when the majority of women were leaving they were set upon by about 15 men from Chaplins next door, women were badly injured. The police were again called, they arrived late and behaved badly. This is being looked into by (name of Lesbian Rep) and other women at the meeting.”

    • Hi Jane,

      I was wondering where you found this information and if you could point me towards it! I am doing a dissertation research project at the University of Bristol on the lesbian nightlife scene in the 70s/80s/90s and this would be a lot of help.

      All the best,


  3. Through a work colleague who actually has the jukebox from the Scarlet Coat (a family relative was one of the owners) with a number of crates of vinyl singles I have started creating a Pinterest board of all the singles along with a Spotify playlist. I’m sure these will bring back lots of memories!

    The Pinterest board is here:

    And the Spotify playlist is here:

  4. It is now 30 years since the attack on women leaving the Scarlet Coat. What a horrific night it was. More like 30 women attacked – with a good number taking the ring leader to court.

    It is a pretty lonely experience to have been involved in this incident and I was pleased to see this acknowledgement – there is nothing else that I can find on the web. I’d also be interested to know more about the minutes from the Women’s Committee meeting mentioned (I’d forgotten all about that!)

    The attack on women outside the Scarlet Coat is completely unrecognised in LGBT+ History. When has there ever been a report of a mass organised physical attack on lesbians? Why is this story not known? Now, 30 years on, surely those exploring LGBT+ History should be recognising it, the Crown Court case which followed and attempts to get one of the perpetrators (who pleaded Guilty) to pay the compensation he owed. From a personal perspective, it has had a huge impact on my life and I cannot believe I am the only one.

    • Hi Salh,

      I am so sorry to hear about your experiences and the lack of recognition or record there is of such a horrific event. I am currently producing my undergraduate dissertation project on the lesbian nightlife scene in Bristol in 70s/80s/90s. A key rationale behind my research is attempting to amend the consistent exclusion of lesbians from historic records and bring to light events like this that have been ignored. I am conducting interviews at the moment and was wondering if you’d be interested in being involved? If so my email is:

      Drop me an email and I can send you some more info,

      All the best,


    • Hi Salh,
      I agree that this is an event that has not received the attention it deserves, and I hate to think how isolating it must be without sufficient acknowledgement. I’d love to hear some more from you about your time at Scarlet Coat, if you’re comfortable sharing, in order to write about this event for the recognition of younger LGBT people in Bristol today. If you would like, you can email me

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