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Who has £1 million to bring Black Cap bar back to life?

Famous venue is marketed as opportunity to recreate 'role as a premier LGBTQ+ cabaret and public house entertainment venue'

18 October, 2017 — By William McLennan

OWNERS of an iconic Camden Town gay bar which has been lying unused for more than two years have said that anyone looking to reopen the venue will need to spend nearly £1million to restore it to its former glory.

For the first time since it was abruptly closed in April 2015, the Black Cap in Camden High Street is being marketed as an opportunity for somebody to return the popular nightspot to its role as “a premier LGBTQ+ cabaret and public house entertainment venue”.

It marks a change of tack for owner Kicking Horse Ltd, which had previously sought to lease the property to a restaurant chain and a bar operator looking to open a family-friendly pub. The Black Cap Foundation, which grew out of street protests in the days after the closure, has campaigned for the pub to be returned to its role as a key space for London’s LGBT community. Promotional literature says anyone looking to reopen the Black Cap with the spirit for which it was widely loved before closing is “likely to be enthusiastically supported by a passionate local community”.

However, the chances of finding a new leaseholder may be complicated by the £300,000-a-year rent and estimated repair costs of £900,000. A description of the venue states: “The building has been closed for 2.5 years so will require a significant amount of capital investment.”

Protests following the bar’s closure

Councillor Danny Beales, who has helped facilitate negotiations between the owner and campaigners, said: “There’s no doubt for me that this venue was profitable before it closed and will be profitable again if it opens. It wasn’t closed because it wasn’t a successful venue, but we now need someone to take it on and invest in it. That’s more the stumbling block at the moment, not that it can’t be a profitable venue.”

He added: “It’s a big step for someone to invest £1million as well as the general business running costs, but I think it’s a positive step that both parties have agreed a joint marketing pack. If there is someone that will take on the venue as it is and invest in it, this is the best shot there is, because everyone is working together. It’s a prime location, it has a really good reputation, it’s got that reputation across London. I’m sure if it opened it would get tons of publicity. It has that big fan base who are active. I think it can definitely work. Hopefully, we will find someone that wants to take on the whole property and invest in it.”

Paul Tallentyre, director of pubs and bars at Davis Coffer Lyons, which is marketing the Black Cap, said: “We have got some good people who have come forward who we are now speaking to regarding business plans. “We are running a process to see who is there to take the property as is, to continue the history of the Black Cap. If there’s no one that comes forward, then obviously we are just going to have to keep running that process.”

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