21 April 2024 Updated – The Royal Vauxhall Tavern – The Story So Far

➜ The much loved Royal Vauxhall Tavern was built around 1865 and sits as the gateway to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which dates back to 1661, the current site was built after World War II where returning servicemen and local gay men used the venue as a meeting place which has been a vital part of the London LGBTQ+ community since the 1950’s with a rich history of drag performers.

➜ In the 60s and 70s drag artists would perform on the bar used as a stage which at that time ran through the middle of the ground floor bar.

➜ In the 1980s, The RVT became known as ‘The Palladium of Drag’ with stars such as Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage who had an eight year, 4 four times a week residency, Hinge & Brackett, Diana Dors, Regina Fong, Adrella, The Trollettes and Lola Lasagne.

➜It is also the venue that Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett reportedly took Princess Diana for a night out in disguise and Dame Helen Mirren brought her godson for a relaxed family night out.

➜In the late 1990s Jonathan Hellyer’s residency as The Dame Edna Experience has graced the RVT stage for over two decades playing to a packed out, at capacity audiences every Sunday and Bank Holiday weekends.

➜ In the 21st century, The RVT is home to a wide range of nights and performers covering every aspect of the LGBTQIA+ scene for entertainment and cabaret excellence sustaining an established reputation as a vibrant and diverse entertainment venue featuring respected artists including Belinda Carlisle, Kim Wilde, Mutya Buena, Bucks Fizz, Liberty X, The Three Degrees, Sonia, Gabrielle, Mica Paris, Toyah and Carol Decker/T’Pau and many more.

➜ Combined with the best local artists and club nights BeefMince, Push The Button, Anthem, Eurofest, Eurovision, Frankie Goes To Vauxhall, Butch Please, Cheer Up, David Hoyle, Kings of Clubs, Art of Drag, The Cocoa Butter Club, Bitten Peach, Bar Wotever, Fetish Recon, Drag Comedy, NADC, Boylesque, Murder She Wrote, Homos And Houmous, Like  A Sturgeon, the annual RVT Panto, RVT Pride Night in the Tunnel, and credible up and coming Sunday Cabaret artists such as Jonathan Hellyer as D.E.Experience, Myra DuBois, Mary Mac, Charlie Hides, Lola Lasagne, Drag With No Name and many more…….

➜ RVT is featured regularly on national and local LGBTQ+ news stories with BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky.

Royal Vauxhall Tavern is a much sought after film shoot location:

Goodbye Gemini featuring Sir Michael Redgrave made in 1970.

Clapham Junction is a 2007 British television film, featuring Paul Nichols, the film centres on the experiences of several gay men during a 36-hour period in the Clapham area of London and the consequences when their lives collide. From a civil partnership ceremony to a heated dinner party, five stories are woven into London from school and work, to bars and clubs during one hot summer’s night.

Pride a historical comedy-drama film made in 2014 about gay activists who raised money to help miners during the 1984 miners strike, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture and for the BAFTA for Best British Film, Best Actress in a supporting role for Imelda Staunton.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is a 2016 British comedy film directed by Mandie Fletcher and written by Jennifer Saunders based on the television series Absolutely Fabulous. It stars Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield (in her final film role) and Jane Horrocks , reprising their roles from the series. The film finds the drug-addicted, alcoholic PR agent Edina Monsoon and her best friend/codependent Patsy Stone on the run from the authorities after it is suspected they killed supermodel Kate Moss.

British Vogue used the venue in October 2020 to shoot a feature on diversity on the LGBTQ+ scene.

Pre – 2005: – Royal Vauxhall Tavern was owned by Lambeth Council who issued short term licenses to operators.

September 2005: RVT Enterprises UK Ltd, the freehold owner and RVT Management Ltd, the operating company was formed between James Lindsay and Paul Oxley in purchasing the RVT freehold at auction from Lambeth Council for £1.25m. James and Paul committed £600,000 of their own personal money into the venture. This joint venture saved Royal Vauxhall Tavern and LGBTQ+ history and culture from closure, protecting RVT as a safe LGBTQ+ space.

May 2014: – RVT Management Ltd suffered heavy losses six years out of nine years, in particular 2010 to 2014. James agreed an exit strategy with Paul.

  1. Two offers were submitted, first offer introduced by Paul from Bespoke Homes for residential development. This came with a condition which would have resulted in immediate closure of The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
  2. James resisted both the offer and the condition and subsequently championed an offer from Immovate with guarantees that should development take place, the ground floor area would be preserved as LGBTQ+ space and would benefit from substantial investment. Sadly this has been withdrawn by the freehold owner due to the Grade II listed building status.

October 2014: – Lambeth Council designated RVT as an Asset of Community Value Status (ACV). Current legislation allows the freehold interest to be sold with the transfer of a business as a going concern (TOGC) the ACV moratorium process is applied without the ACV position being triggered.

November 2014: – Property owner Immovate accepted ACV position and completed the purchase

September 2015: – Historic England designated Royal Vauxhall Tavern Grade II listed building status.

August 2016: – Lambeth Council extended the Vauxhall Conservation Area to include the RVT building.

January 2017: – Two separate applications were made to Lambeth Council for LGBTQ+ Sui Generis, and Mixed Use Sui Generis. Both applications were approved by Lambeth Council. With both the LGBTQ+ and Mixed Use Sui Generis approvals in place this means that the LGBTQ+ status is not protected if there was a change to the leasehold interest.

October 2018: – James secured terms for a new 20 year lease, securing the longer term operating position for the third time, 2005, 2014, 2018, creating stability and further preserving Royal Vauxhall Tavern as a LGBTQ+ safe space. If the freehold owner were to dispose of the freehold interest, the leasehold interest would be transferred as part of the agreed disposal. The lease governs the operating position of Royal Vauxhall Tavern. During the lease period until November 2038, the role of Freehold owner (landowner) and Leasehold owner (operator) remain separate entities.

November 2014 – to date: – Vauxhall Tavern London Ltd operates Royal Vauxhall Tavern as a new sole owned company under James Lindsay. James retains total strategic, operational and financial control of Royal Vauxhall Tavern, in each of the 3 periods in 2005, 2014 and 2018 it has been James personal finances that has saved RVT from closure. 

Key Successes

  • Sold the freehold interest and retained the leasehold interest
    • Set up new company under sole ownership, creating an established vibrant reputational venue
    • Turned company around making it commercially viable in three years
    • Continuous business growth
    • Stabilised the business, increased turnover by 85%
    • Negotiated and secured a new 20 year lease in 2018
    • Create an integral venue to the London entertainment and music industry
    • Major contributor to London’s night time economy
    • Venue of choice by leading international artists including Belinda Carlisle, Mutya Buena, Gabrielle, Mica Paris, Bucks Fizz, Liberty X, Three Degrees, Sonia, Toyah and T’Pau’s Carol Decker
    • Built brand through cabaret and performance excellence
    • Prevented closure in 2005/2014/2018 contributing own personal finances
    • Protected and promoted venue as historical and cultural landmark as a safe LGBTQ+ space
    • Raised over £800,000 through RVT charity partnership programme
    • One of London’s most successful diverse entertainment programmes
    • Outstanding Business Achievement Award
    • Media & Entertainment Industry Awards (Voted by the Public) as Best Cabaret Venue 2020/2021

March 2020 – December 2020 – Government National Lockdown – 39 weeks of Forced Closure – Curfew and Tier 2 Restrictions and Enforcement

Covid-19 – Business review in August 2020 resulting from Covid-19 implementing a business recovery strategy, Covid 19 Secure, social distancing, table service and live performances allowed from 1 August 2020. RVT successfully manages the financial constraints and challenges to survive during the lockdown period. The Curfew currently in place is financially challenging and devastating our business recovery.

RVT was a financially viable company pre-lockdown and has lost £940,000 in revenue since the Prime Ministers UK national television address on 16 March 2020 putting restrictions in place. It is not sustainable for the Government to keep targeting hospitality business without a structured financial package of measures in place when they are the safest place to be with no reported cases of Covid across the 49 LGBTQ venues in London.

RVT built up credible financial reserves since 2015. This approach and strategy allowed RVT to survive during the lockdown period. Financial reserves were challenged with the effect of Covid-19 forced closure during the 17 weeks of lockdown and curfew enforcement measures, with no income and rent and operating costs at £28,000 a month still to be paid.

RVT set up a Go Fund Me Campaign which gained enormous support, and applied to Lambeth Council through the Business Hardship Fund and The London Mayors Culture at Risk Fund and were successful in the verification and due diligence process in being awarded grants.

October 2020 – RVT receives £225,000 lifeline grant from the Governments £1.57billion Arts Council Culture Recovery Fund.

November 2020: Immovate instructed Savills to dispose of the RVT freehold interest.

November 2020: – James Lindsay Appoints Mark Brown at Freeths an experienced litigator to act on Royal Vauxhall Tavern behalf in relation to a dispute with the landlord obligations under the terms of the lease in allowing the roof to fall into disrepair. The ongoing dispute causing disruption to business when work to the roof and elevations finally commenced in September 2022 completing in June 2023.

May 2022: Channel 4 Oscar nominated Steven Baldry took over RVT for a three day film shoot 50 Years of Pride – Freedom traced the evolution of UK Pride from Stonewall in 1972 through the riots of the 1980’s.

June 2022: Oscar winning film Director and Producer Danny Boyle took over RVT for a five day film shoot location for Lonely Boy, based on guitarist Steve Jones memoir Tales of a Sex Pistol.

March 2023: The announcement of Paul O’ Grady’s death who was a strong advocate of RVT where Paul had an eight year residency in the 1980’s. ITV pay tribute to the iconic and much loved entertainer in a special celebratory film with many of his entertainment friends paying homage to his career during filming at RVT. The tribute programme went out on national television on Easter Sunday 9th April during prime time viewing.

June 2023: HRH Prince William visits Royal Vauxhall Tavern and meets CEO to film and shows support for LGBTQ+ community ahead of London Pride.

July 2023: RVT takes over Arch 58 directly outside the venue. RVT and the tunnel and becomes one to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Night Party 2023. This has been the biggest and best well attended event so far to support RVT and to celebrate our history and culture.


Media, Entertainment and Industry Awards – Voted by the Public

  • Industry Award Winning LGBTQ Cabaret and Club Night Venue
  • Time Out – 50 Most Iconic Places in London
  • 111 London Best Pubs & Bars That You Shouldn’t Miss
  • Great Pubs of England
  • Time Out – 50 Most Iconic Places in London
  • 111 London Best Pubs & Bars
  • Outstanding Business Achievement Industry Award Winner


➜ 2022/2023/2024: RVT has been used for Filming, Producers, Artists and has welcomed HRH Prince William, Paul O’Grady, Danny Boyle, Stephen Baldry, Cara Delevingne, Sir Ian Mc Kellan, Peter Tatchell, Belinda Carlisle, Kim Wilde, Mutya Buena, Tom Robinson and many more artists

➜RVT had the privilege for the venue to be used for filming Ab Fab The Movie, Danny Boyle – Lonely Boy, Steven Baldry Freedom 50 years of Pride, ITV tribute programme to celebrate the life of Paul O’Grady,  Disney plus All of us Strangers and Netflix Baby Reindeer.

➜ Paul O’Grady Tribute Programme welcomed to RVT Amanda Mealing, Linda Thorson, Sally Lindsay, Scott Mitchell, Brenda Gilhooly, Carol Vorderman, Tony Maudsley, David Dale, Malcolm Prince, Scott Marsden, Gaby Roslin, Holly Johnson, Julian Clary and Battersea Staff from the “For the Love of Dogs”