Many LGBT bars have opened in London but many have not lasted long. Some have become ‘straight’ bars, others have turned into strip clubs and the rest have been demolished entirely. In fact, I’m not sure which is the worse fate.
Moreover, the ever-growing gentrification of Soho has led to a steep reduction in gay bars and clubs across London’s liveliest district in recent years. There is, however, hope for London’s LGBT bars. We at Vada looked back to the early 90s to find out which bars have survived over two decades until today and were surprised at the longevity of some of our favourite haunts.
We have found seven London LGBT bars that have remained on the scene since 1992, across the capital’s boroughs: from Hampstead to Kings Cross to Soho to Vauxhall to Clapham to Limehouse.
Next time you’re on a night out in London, why not have your next double vodka and lemonade at one of the venues below to pay homage to the owners and managers who have kept these establishments alive for so many years? May they live another 20 years!
A gay bar since 1992, this friendly bar is known for free pool, cocktail nights and an abundance of local drag shows.
Location: 27 Wharfdale Road, Kings Cross, London, N1 9SD / centralstation.co.uk
The original gay bar of Old Compton Street, which was originally a built as a hotel in 1890. Since the 50s, it was known for being ‘not entirely straight’, but came out the closet as the ‘Comptons of Soho’ LGBT bar in 1986.
Location: 51-53 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HN / faucetinn.com/comptons/
King William IV
A stone’s throw from London’s most renowned cruising ground, Hampstead Heath, The King William became gay in the 30s, specifically to cater to men visiting the Heath. Now, with a traditional country pub feel, it continues the ‘anyone welcome’ vibe.
Location: 77 Hampstead High Street, London, NW3 1RE / kingwilliamhampstead.co.uk
The Two Brewers
The Two Brewers has been around since 1981 and promotes itself as ‘London’s Premier Gay Cabaret & Dance Venue’ – in short, the LGBT destination for those living in an SW postcode.
Location: 114 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UJ / the2brewers.com
Originally built in 1863, this is an icon of LGBT-friendly bars in Vauxhall, with a well-known history. Regular nights include Duckie (Saturdays), The Big Bingo Show (Mondays) and the monthly Push the Button.
Location: 372 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5HY / vauxhalltavern.com
Open in its current location since 1992, this multi-level venue always draws a crowd. With free admission, bar-top gogo dancers and an ‘if the shoe fits’ dress code, it is no wonder this is one of the most popular gay bars in Soho.
Location: 81 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1D 6QD / village-soho.co.uk
The White Swan
Originally opened in 1985, The White Swan is still East London’s leading gay dance bar – featuring drag queens and open mic nights.
Location: 556 Commercial Road, London, E14 7JD / bjswhiteswan.com