The much loved Royal Vauxhall Tavern was built in 1860 as a public house complete with two separate bars. It has been a vital part of the London LGBTQ+ community since the 1960s with a rich history of drag performers. in the 60s and 70s drag stars would perform on the bar which at that time ran through the middle of the venue.
In the 1980s The RVT became known as ‘The Palladium of Drag’ with stars such as Lily Savage, Regina Fong, Adrella, The Trollettes and youngsters such as Sandra and Lola Lasagne and in the 90s Jonathan Hellyer as The Dame Edna Experience. All graced the iconic RVT stage. It is also the venue that Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett reportedly took Princess Diana for a night out in disguise.
In the 21st century, The RVT is home to a wide range of nights and performers covering every aspect of the LGBTQ+ scene for entertainment and cabaret excellence sustaining an established reputation as a vibrant and diverse entertainment venue featuring respected artists including Belinda Carlisle, Mutya Buena, Bucks Fizz, Liberty X, The Three Degrees, Sonia, Gabrielle, Mica Paris, Toyah and Carol Decker/T’Pau.
Combined with the best local artists and club nights Duckie, Bar Wotever, Beefmince, Anthem, Kings of Clubs, Butch, Please, Art of Drag, Push The Button, The Cocoa Butter Club, Bitten Peach, Big Bingo Show, Eurofest and much more including the annual RVT Panto and stars such as Myra DuBois, Mary Mac, Danny Beard, Son of a Tutu and Charlie Hides which has provided a platform as an Iconic London landmark to be an industry award-winning cabaret, performance and club night venue.
The venue is featured regularly on national and local LGBTQ+ news stories with BBC, ITV, Sky News and is a much sought after film shoot location having featured in Pride, Absolutely Fabulous The Movie and Vogue UK.
Pre – 2005: – Royal Vauxhall Tavern was owned by Lambeth Council and offered short term lease provisions.
September 2005: – J/V Enterprise formed between James Lindsay and Paul Oxley in purchasing the RVT freehold at auction from Lambeth Council for £1.25m, committing £600K of personal money into the venture. J/V saved Royal Vauxhall Tavern and LGBTQ+ history and culture from closure.
June 2008 – 2014: – RVT can’t support the salary of two Directors working directly in the business. Lindsay returns to work in the shopping centre industry, senior level recruitment/head hunter with a leading industry provider and set up and manage the 2012 Olympic Games megastore and retail offering within the Olympic Park.
May 2014: 6 years out of 9 years, RVT Management Ltd suffered heavy losses, in particular 2010 to 2014. Lindsay forced a sale and agreed an exit strategy with Oxley.
- Two offers were submitted at the same level, first offer introduced by Oxley from Bespoke Homes for residential development. This would have led to immediate closure of The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
- Lindsay resisted this offer and tabled an offer from Immovate in a multi-million pound sale with guarantees that should development take place the ground floor area would be retained as an LGBTQ+ venue and would benefit from investment and growth.
October 2014: – Lambeth Council designated RVT as Asset of Community Value (ACV) status.
November 2014: – Property owner Immovate accepted ACV position and completed the purchase in a multi-million pound deal. Royal Vauxhall Tavern was sold under a Share Purchase Agreement (SPA). Lindsay set up a new company and agreed a 5 year short term lease, saving Royal Vauxhall Tavern from closure.
September 2015: – Historic England designated Royal Vauxhall Tavern Grade II listed building status.
March 2016 – Immovate appointed planning consultants, ACV was not triggered. Current legislation allows under any disposal of the freehold interest , the ACV process will not trigger if Royal Vauxhall Tavern is sold under a Share Purchase Agreement structure.
August 2016: – Lambeth Council extended the Vauxhall Conservation Area to include the RVT building.
January 2017: – Two applications were made to Lambeth Council for LGBTQ+ Sui Generis, and Mixed Use Sui Generis. Both applications were approved by Lambeth Council.
November 2018: – Lindsay secured terms for a new 20 year lease, securing the long term operating position, creating stability and further preserving Royal Vauxhall Tavern and the LGBTQ+ community . If Immovate 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 (land owner) and Leasehold (operator) these remain separate entities.
There are only two clauses agreed under the terms of the lease which could terminate the lease:
- if the rent provision is withheld, and
- if a lease assignment is agreed between the freehold and leasehold parties
November 2014 – to date: – Lindsay retains total strategic, operational and fiscal control of London’s iconic award winning cabaret, performance and club night venue, undertaking a further business review in August 2020 resulting from Covid-19 implementing a business recovery strategy.
Royal Vauxhall Tavern:
- remains a commercially viable trading entity, building a brand and creating an integral venue to the London entertainment and music industry and is a major contributor to the London night time economy.
- increased turnover by 58% in 3 years to just under £2million with year on year six-figure pre-tax profits with clear credit history.
- is in a stable position and built up credible financial reserves over the last four years. This approach and strategy allowed RVT to survive during the lockdown period.
- remains a preferred venue of choice for artists, promoters and the LGBTQ+ community.
- seen financial reserves challenged with the effect of Covid-19 forced closure during the 14 weeks of lockdown, with no income and rent and operating costs at £24,000 a month still to be paid.
- 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.
2020 Media and Entertainment Industry Awards – Voted By The Public
- Best Cabaret Venue
- Best LGBTQ+ Cabaret Venue
- Best Cabaret Performance
- Best Club Night
- Best Panto
- Time Out 50 Most Iconic Places in London
- 111 London Best Pubs & Bars That You Shouldn’t Miss
- Outstanding Business Achievement – Industry Award Winner