The news about iconic gay bar the Black Cap closing has become a huge cultural story, symbolic as it is of the way community venues are fast disappearing across London.
When it emerged last week that cafe chain the Breakfast Club is poised to take over the building, many expressed concern that the bar’s rich history was simply being dismissed at the whim of a landlord. After all, it dates back to before homosexuality was legalised, and was home to pioneering acts from Danny La Rue to Lily Savage.
So it was interesting to hear today that a new gay bar is being lined up to open a minute’s walk away, just next to Camden Town tube. Not that such an arrival can make up for the loss of a historic site, of course, but at least it may provide some sort of replacement in NW1 – especially if the outcome of this week’s crucial hearing on preserving its ACV (Asset of Community Value) status falters.
The plan is for The Stillery, the late night live music hangout on Kentish Town Road which closed earlier this month, to reopen in a new guise.
“The Vice/ Old Blue Last team who took it over weren’t able to make it work with the right promoters or direction,” says our source. “So it’s now set to become a bar catering to the LGBT community.”
It’s an intriguing prospect for the quirky two-floored space (with outside area too) that has changed hands several times over the years. Before The Stillery – whose failure is something of a surprise given the reputation and experience of those involved – it served a spell as the Record Club, a members’ bar for music industry types. And before that? Indie gig venue Camden Rock. Earlier still, it was the raucous long-running WKD bar.We’re pretty sure it’s not the first time a gay venue has been attempted at the site, part of the Grimshaw-designed Sainsbury’s building, either. Does anyone else have a vague recollection of a short-lived LGBT club about a decade ago whose musical focus was US house and R’n’B?
And as for the new incarnation, it’s unclear at this stage whether there’ll be drag or cabaret performances – a mainstay of the Black Cap – but of course it would make perfect sense.
Finally, might the Black Cap as a name be up for grabs, too? So it could even (in theory) simply relocate to preserve such fabulous local heritage.
But it’s early days, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As ever, we’ll keep you posted.