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One of London’s oldest gay bars could soon reopen after sitting shuttered for six long years

Emma Powys Maurice June 10, 2021
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The Black Cap London

Cabaret singer Shane packing performing at the Black Cap, Camden Town in November 1969 (Watford/Mirrorpix/Getty)

A beloved London gay bar that welcomed the queer community for more than five decades could soon reopen thanks to a determined group of campaigners.

The Black Cap on Camden High Street was a haven for LGBT+ Londoners from the 1960s onwards, eventually becoming one the city’s premier stages for cabaret and drag acts.

Tragically the historic pub was forced to close in 2015 due to planning issues, and it looked like one of London’s oldest gay bars was lost forever.

Six years later, that could be about to change.

According to the Camden New Journal, a company called Kicking Horse Three has taken ownership of the building along with two other pubs, the Sir Richard Steele in Belsize Park and the Dartmouth Arms in Dartmouth Park.

The directors, Andy Merricks and Steve Billot, are clear that the pub should be revived as an LGBT+ venue.

“We understand and value the historical and cultural importance of The Black Cap to Camden Town, and in particular, to the local LGBTQ+ community,” they told the outlet.

“We are engaging directly with Camden Council, and look forward to further positive discussions as we work closely with officials and the local community.”

Long-term campaigners Alex Clark and Ben Walters have drawn up a business plan and formed The Black Cap Community Company to potentially buy the site from them.

They’d previously been trying to strike a deal with the building’s former owner, but are now keen to open negotiations with Kicking Horse Three so they can restore the pub to its former glory.

“We have been consistent since the closure: this should be an LGBTQ-friendly pub, club and cabaret space called The Black Cap,” Clark said.

“It is a unique, iconic and irreplaceable Camden institution that was viable before it closed and we believe is needed today more than ever.”

Among those whose careers have started at the Black Cap include Lily Savage actor Paul O’Grady, drag act Hinge and Bracket, and several RuPaul’s Drag Race stars: Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, BenDeLaCreme, Raja Gemini and Trixie Mattel.

If all goes to plan, a new generation of queer performers will soon be following in their footsteps on the iconic Black Cap stage.

Related topics: gay bar, London

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