Vauxhall, located south of the Thames, has established itself as one of London’s most glamorously seedy gayborhoods. While a night out in Soho might offer up Top 40, twinks, and too much glitter, a trip to Vauxhall entails sweaty weekend-long parties (and more than a few bad decisions). Bar one: the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
The RVT, billed as the UK’s oldest gay bar, is a bastion of camp in the hard-partying, rough-fucking district. Drag queen bingo, outrageous cabaret, a queer variety show, and an overall convivial atmosphere are some of aspects of the RVT that has had LGBTs of all stripes coming to the Vauxhall gem for decades.
Those days may soon end.
With Vauxhall in the throws of gentrification, queer spaces are facing the wrecking ball. Area, Paris Gym, and Barcode (no big loss with that last one) have all closed their doors in recent years and now the “haven before decriminalization” may face the same fate. Bought by property development company Immovate, who have not said what they plan to do with the RVT, the Vauxhall fixture's future is uncertain.
“Now we’ve applied to make the Tavern a listed building,” Ben Walters, spokesperson of Future of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a campaign to save the storied watering hole, tells Dazed & Confused magazine. “Built around 1862, the RVT has a wealth of history, from its links to Vauxhall pleasure gardens to its unique role in LGBTQ heritage and culture. It’s the oldest surviving continually operating queer venue in London, if not the country.”
“Getting listed status would make it very hard for an owner to demolish or alter the building in a way that damaged its character. Ultimately, we’d like the RVT to be owned by the community that cherishes it, so this unique beacon of community and culture can shine on for decades to come.”
Receiving landmark status would be a watershed moment, especially considering that queer venues across the English capital have closed their doors. East London’s Joiners Arms and Soho’s Madame Jojo’s and The Green Carnation have had to close up shop. The Black Cap, a Camden Town gay pub which shuttered in April, has been overtaken by squatters who pledge to reopen the centuries out public house, despite government regulation.
With an uncertain tomorrow for the RVT and London’s queer landscape undergoing a sea change, now is the time for LGBT communities the world over to take stock, discover what is truly dear to them, and fight to keep those venues open for future generations of young queers.