Future of iconic gay pub The Black Cap uncertain as audience given ‘last show’

The Black Cap in Camden Town may have put on its last show yesterday evening

The Black Cap in Camden Town may have put on its last show yesterday evening - Credit: Archant

An iconic gay pub in Camden is facing an uncertain future after owners abruptly closed its doors just months after being refused permission to turn the upper floors into flats.

The Black Cap pub in Camden High Street, well-known for its cabaret acts and drag performances, closed its doors for what may be the last time yesterday evening.

Cabaret website ThisisCabaret reported Virgin Xtravaganzah headlined “what proved to be the final show while Holestar sang a poignant Hello, Goodbye from the stage”.

The historic venue, around since the 1800s, is one of a handful of LGBT pubs left in north London.

Its surprise closure comes after a series of failed planning applications submitted by the owners.

The most recent application saw the pub chain firm seek to turn the upper floors of The Black Cap into three flats with roof terraces.

Camden councillors unanimously rejected planning permission for the proposals in February.

Before they ruled on the plans, longstanding Black Cap regular Terence Bevington said: “The Black Cap serves as a vital space for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and there is nowhere else in and beyond Camden that offers such a unique space.”

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He added: “The character and soul of the community pub would be lost forever.”

Under the plans, the pub’s first-floor bar would have been replaced with flats, one of a string of bids to convert the upper floors since 2012.

More recently, it looked as if the future of the pub may have been more secure after the council listed it as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

But today, staff were told the pub would not be opening.

RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage tweeted her support for the venue, which had been popular with gay men since the 1960s.

She said her “heart was broken” by the closure which was only going ahead, she claimed, “to fatten wallets”.

Nigel Harris, director of Camden LGBT Forum, said: “Camden LGBT Forum has a long history with the Black Cap. It was one of our original safe havens for LGBT people, and has been host to dozens of Forum events and outreach sessions and I fondly remember our trip there to celebrate the founding of our Forum 13 years ago.

“It was therefore a shock to find that the Cap had shut its doors on Monday. Even more of a shock was the declaration that the now former owners had sold the venue in December. In my mind this is very much against the ‘spirit’ of planning rules.

“Although the ACV status has not prevented the sale of the venue, as it happened prior to our nomination being accepted, it will limit the terms of use.

“As of yet Camden Council has not received any new requests for planning permission. Should they receive one they will judge it on its merits. I imagine it would be unlikely to go through, however, as the council has made clear its respect for the venue through its granting of ACV status and decisions to turn down planning permission twice in recent years.

“In my mind this means the new owners will keep the venue as a bar. The question is what kind of bar? It is very difficult to ascertain due to the lack of knowledge of who the new owners are.”

The Black Cap, with its motto “Just Be Fabulous”, hosted sold out shows from homegrown and international talent over the last year and entertained a loyal clientele who had been coming to the venue for decades.

Faucet Inns, which also runs the Steeles pub in Haverstock Hill, confirmed today it would no longer be running the pub and that the venue had been sold by the freeholder in December last year.

A spokesman said: “Faucet Inn Limited regrets to announce that it is no longer able to operate The Black Cap in Camden, London; a site it has operated on behalf of the freeholder for the last five years.

“The building which was exchanged by the freeholder in December last year. [This] will complete imminently which has meant the site has had to be closed as of today.

“Faucet Inn thanks its loyal customers over the time it has operated the site and regrets the impact on the LGBTQI community of the closure of the venue.

“This historical venue has long been recognised as an important part of the LGBTQI community and its significant contribution to many performers on the London and international cabaret circuit.”

Today, the pub’s website and social media accounts were taken down. Its direct phoneline was also said by Faucet Inn to have been “disconnected”.