20 September 2020 Updated – The Royal Vauxhall Tavern – The Story So Far

➜ 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 artists 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 who had a long residency, Regina Fong, Adrella, The Trollettes and Lola Lasagne. In the late 1990s Jonathan Hellyer’s residency as The Dame Edna Experience graced the RVT stage for 18 years playing to a packed out, at capacity audiences every Sunday and Bank Holiday weekends. 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 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.  In testament and recognition to all the artists, promoters, RVT Team and the RVT Community – The Media and Entertainment Industry Awards – Voted By The Public has made RVT as London’s Best Cabaret Venue for the last two consecutive years.

➜ The venue is featured regularly on national and local LGBTQ+ news stories with BBC, ITV, Sky News, Gaydio and is a much sought after film shoot location having featured in Pride, Absolutely Fabulous The Movie and most recently Vogue UK.

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

➜ 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.

  1. Two offers were submitted, first offer introduced by Oxley from Bespoke Homes for residential development. This came with a condition which would have resulted in immediate closure of The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
  2. Lindsay resisted both the offer and the condition and subsequently tabled an offer from Immovate in a multi-million pound sale with guarantees that should development take place onsite the ground floor area would be retained as an LGBTQ+ venue and would benefit from investment and growth. Sadly this has now been withdrawn by the freehold owner due to the Grade II listed building status.

➜ October 2014: – Lambeth Council designated RVT as Asset of Community Value Status (ACV).

➜ 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, again 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. Despite the ACV status, an ongoing sale can still be agreed.

➜ 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.

➜ October 2018: – Lindsay secured terms for a new 20 year lease, securing the longer 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 two clauses agreed under the terms of the lease which could terminate the lease:

  • the rent provision is withheld, and
  • a lease assignment is agreed between the freehold and leasehold parties

➜ November 2014 – to date: – 

➜ Royal Vauxhall Tavern – Vauxhall Tavern London Ltd

Lindsay retains total strategic, operational and fiscal control and owns all Intellectual Property Rights for The Royal Vauxhall Tavern

➝ Key Successes
• Sold the freehold interest and retained the leasehold interest
• Set up new company
• Turned company around making it commercially viable in three years
• Continuous business growth
• Increased turnover by 58%
• 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 – (The Fizz), Liberty X, The Three Degrees, Sonia, Toyah and T’Pau – 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
• Sustained established reputation as vibrant and diverse venue
• 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 2018, 2019 and 2020

➜ 20 March 2020 – 4 July 2020 – Government National Lockdown with 17 weeks of forced closure – ongoing with regular government reviews 

Covid-19 – Business review in August 2020 resulting from Covid-19 implementing a business recovery strategy, Covid 19 Secure, social distancing, with live performances allowed from 1 August 2020. RVT successfully faces the financial constraints and challenges to survive during the lockdown period.

RVT built up credible financial reserves over the last four years. 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, with no income and rent and operating costs at £24,000 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.

➜ 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