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Mystery new operator on brink of signing deal for Black Cap

Campaigners warn four year battle over legendary pub will not be won until it re-opens the way it was

10 January, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

LEGENDARY Camden Town gay pub and cabaret venue The Black Cap could finally be set to reopen – but campaigners fear a mystery new operator will not run it in the same way that made it famous across London.

The pub in Camden High Street was closed by its managers Faucet Inn four years ago, sparking huge protests and an ongoing campaign to force the firm to reopen the nightspot, one of London’s longest-running LGBT venues.

But the company’s director, Steve Cox, this week suggested he is on the brink of striking a deal with an unnamed bar and music venue firm that would lead to The Black Cap’s doors opening again.

The building has stood empty since its closure in 2015, apart from a brief spell of squatting, and attempts to change the nature of the venue have been opposed. Campaigners have held weekly vigils outside.

Mr Cox, whose company Kicking Horse owns the building, told the New Journal the saga had cost his company a large amount of money and he now hoped there was light at the end of the tunnel. “We still have an expensive loan we are paying on the Black Cap,” he said. “The Black Cap has tested all of us.”

He said the pub first closed as the firm had sold it as a “vacant possession” – but the deal fell through, leaving them in limbo. Another deal with a firm called Ruth and Robinson was struck, but that also never reached completion.

Mr Cox said: “After a long period of marketing, which included approaching LGBT operators, trying to find someone who would work within the constraints of the current property proved difficult. We have been in discussions with a very interested operator, who we believe will invest in the Black Cap and reopen it as a public house, cabaret and music venue. They are a good, London-based bar and music venue company. The pub will have an LGBT flavour.”

Mr Cox said his firm are in talks with Camden Council with a view to applying for permission to turn upper floors into flats. Campaigners from the Black Cap Foundation said they were sceptical that a deal was imminent.

Spokesman Chris Clark warned: “We’ve heard all this before. No LGBTQ+ operator has been engaging with the community or customers about leasing the Black Cap, except for those who have been in touch with us and would have told us if they were about to sign contracts.”

Mr Clark also attacked the plan to convert rooms into homes, adding: “The building is protected by its Asset of Community Value status and its planning use as an LGBTQ+ pub and cabaret venue. Any application to change that will be defeated.”

The Foundation called for Kicking Horse to sell up and let a new freeholder return the pub to its former glory.

“For nearly four years there has been a complete charade that has denied Camden Town a truly important LGBTQ+ venue,” said Mr Clark. “The time has come for Mr Cox to now walk away and let a new buyer return this pub to its original use.”

The news comes as Faucet Inns was put into administration by government tax department the HMRC, days before Christmas.

However, the winding up order will not affect any of the group’s pubs in Camden, according to Mr Cox, as it was a management firm running bars on behalf of another company, Kicking Horse III. As well as the Black Cap they own the Sir Richard Steele’s in Haverstock Hill and the Dartmouth Arms in Dartmouth Park.

Mr Cox said no one had been made redundant because of the order, and said: “It was an operations vehicle. There were some contingent liabilities we felt we could not move on from, and there was no need to keep Faucet Inn going anymore.”

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