After a tough year for venues, the campaign to keep the Royal Vauxhall Tavern open scores a significant victory. How will its owners react?
Madame Jojo’s. The Joiner’s Arms. The Black Cap. Kaff Bar. Man Bar. This list of cabaret venues to have given up the ghost over the last twelve months is a depressing sight. The news coming from RVT Future, a campaign to keep the Royal Vauxhall Tavern open and in use as an LGBT venue, is therefore a welcome fillip.
After eight months, RVT Future has succeeded in a controversial application to make the South London pub the first building in the nation to be listed for its place in LGBT history and heritage. The listing was not supported by the owners who claim it will result in the pub’s closure but it was backed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Sir Ian McKellen and Paul O’Grady, as well as local residents, charities, architects, historians and politicians. A background to the RVT’s importance, history and features can be read in the official listing.
RVT Future campaign manager and Push The Button promoter Rob Holley said:
“We’re chuffed to bits but our work isn’t finished! We’re now calling upon Immovate to finally talk to us, so we can all ensure this special venue continues to flourish at what it does best: serving the community.
“If Immovate don’t think they can make the Tavern work as a listed pub, we invite them to open discussions about a community buy-out. Sell it to a group of people who actually have faith in the commercial viability of this phenomenal venue. We have the means to do this and some exciting ideas about how the RVT could be improved for everybody.
“Meanwhile, we invite everyone who cherishes the Tavern to join us at the bar to celebrate!”
The campaign was set up last year after the venue was taken over by the management team of Immovate, an Austrian property development firm, and James Lindsay, one of the ex-proprietors. The new owners’ first announcement – to convert the top floor into a champagne and wine bar – was met by more than a few raised eyebrows and was treated as a statement of intent: Immovate and Lindsay were looking to change the structure and character of the Tavern for reasons that appeared more commercial in nature than artistic.
The owners have since backed away from their planned conversion with no visible progress on that front since the announcement. In fact, they have made very few public pronouncements since last October and resisted RVT Future’s invitations for an in-depth discussion of the pub’s future.