Business

Historic gay sauna Chariots Spa announces permanent closure prompting outpouring of sticky memories

Lily Wakefield January 26, 2021
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Chariots Spa

Chariots Spa sauna in Vauxhall, London. (Twitter/ ChariotsSpa)

The legendary gay sauna Chariots Spa has gone into liquidation, after suffering financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chariots Health Clubs opened its first gay sauna in Shoreditch, London, in 1996. The company went on to open saunas in Streatham, Farringdon, Limehouse, Waterloo and finally Vauxhall in 2005.

Until now, the Vauxhall branch of Chariots Spa was the only surviving location, and branded itself as Europe’s largest gay sauna.

The sauna closed its doors in March, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on Monday (25 January) the venue announced online: “Chariots sauna will not reopen and is currently in the process of liquidation.

“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our customers and to the gay community as a whole for supporting us and making the company a success for many years.

“We wish you all well for the future.”

Members of the LGBT+ community took to social media to share their memories of the iconic sauna.

“I once was momentarily in love with a French guy called Thibaud at Chariots,” wrote one.

“We lay together in a cubicle on the wipe-clean mat on the floor, the intimacy was so incongruous with the context.”

Another wrote: “I only went to Chariots like three or four times but was the first sauna I’d experienced and I was in my element surrounded by [redacted] [redacted] while my boyfriend watched on.” 

One former Chariots Spa staff member wrote on Twitter: “One of the most iconic gay saunas in London I had the pleasure of working with since September 2019 has unfortunately had to liquidate due to finance issues.

“Saunas such as Chariots had provided a safe space for gay men pre-COVID for countless years.

“Whatever your feelings are towards saunas, I think we can all safely say that it’s gonna be a huge loss for the London community.

“All queer-owned businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic… I’m deeply saddened to have lost my place of work and all of my wonderful coworkers and regulars who I probably won’t see for years.

“I’m gonna miss you Chariots Vauxhall.”

Related topics: coronavirus pandemic, gay sauna, London

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