CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

New owners of Black Cap building pledge to help get famous bar open again

Exclusive: Hopes rise that landmark gay venue will be saved – after standing shut for six years

10 June, 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Campaigners outside the venue in Camden High Street yesterday (Wednesday), from left: Alex Green, Ben Walters, Sarah Allen, Lazare Lazaro, Robert Irvine and Christine Hannigan

ONE of London’s oldest gay venues could be about to rise again as its new owners work to find a solution to getting the doors open.

The Black Cap in Camden High Street, Camden Town, has been closed for six years, but a determined group of campaigners have vowed to see it re­turned to its former glory.

For six decades it was one of the premier stages for cabaret and drag acts, as well as a welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community.

It was shut down when the Faucet Inn pub firm tried to turn the upper floors into housing, only to find itself unable to secure planning permission.

A long-running wrangle followed over the building’s protection and pros­pective operators wanting to change the nature of the venue have always had to abandon their plans.

The New Journal has now learned that 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.

And new directors, who also manage a firm that specialises in restructuring failing pub businesses, told the New Journal they were working on bringing the Black Cap back to life. Kicking Horse

Three directors Andy Merricks and Steve Billot said: “We understand and value the historical and cultural importance of The Black Cap to Camden Town, and in particular, to the local LGBTQ+ community.

“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 Green and Ben Walters have formed the Black Cap Community Benefit Society to potentially buy the site – and had been trying to strike a deal with the building’s former owner, Steve Cox.

They have drawn up a business plan – and are calling on Kicking Horse Three to open negotiations as soon as possible.

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

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

Regular vigils have been held outside the doors of the building over the years in one of the longest-running and most spirited defence of a venue.

The Black Cap before it closed

Mr Walters added: “We have always acted constructively and in good faith with the previous owners.

“It has been disappointing that so far we have not managed to get the venue reopened but we have detailed plans ready to present to the new owners and we are ready to sit down and go though all the options to have the Cap open once again and back in its rightful place in the heart of Camden Town.”

Among those whose careers have started on the Black Cap’s stage include Lily Savage actor Paul O’Grady, drag singers and comedians Hinge and Bracket, and more recently performers who have made their names in popular TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The space is protected under planning law, as it is designated as an Asset of Community Value. Various challenges to this ruling by its previous owners have come to nothing

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