Defence Regulations and Emergency Powers Acts (EPA)

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The Defence Regulations and Emergency Powers Acts (EPA) was brought in and used by police after the mid-1930s to control commercial premises, especially gay pubs and clubs. During the second world war there was concern that homosexuals could corrupt service men. The EPA gave police powers to close 'disorderly' premises without legal process. Officers could enter nightclubs without a warrant. Nightclubs had been relatively safe up until this point, the police had patrolled public spaces,which drove men to meet in public lavatories, when these were monitored, music hallscand cinemas became convenient meeting places. When these became more strictly regulated (which involved more lighting), bars and cafés became the place to meet – but the police did not need warrants to survey or arrest people in these 'public' spaces. Nightclubs were private spaces, and harder to patrol, but the EPA took away this safety.

In 1941 Sam's Café in Rupert Street, Soho, was closed between 6pm-6am under the EPA (Lyon's Corner Houses, among others, we're used to being open 24 hours). Old Compton Street pubs including the Swiss Hotel and the Crown and Two Chairmen on Dean Street were cautioned for "harbouring sodomites".

Pansy cases

in 1930s the Met raided gay nightclubs in the West End and arrested 100 men. To make an example of them, the police dramatized the proceedings by dragging the men into court still wearing make-up or in drag. Defendants were identified by numbered placards hung around their necks. They were served penal sentences and vitriolic summings up by the judges.

In 1927, the manager of the Adelphi Rooms, who was not present when the police raided his premises, was imprisoned for twelve months. Leslie K. who ran the dances served 21 months.

The Powers were used to 'cleanse' the West End pubs and clubs of homosexuals, or at least their visibility.

See Timeline of West End Bars and Clubs.


Matt Houlbrook, Queer London