17 November 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 Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage who had a long RVT 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 credible up and coming artists such as Myra DuBois, Mary Mac, Charlie Hides, Lola Lasagne, Karla Beard, Poppycock, Drag With No Name, Danny Beard and Son of a Tutu and many more…….

➜ 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: – RVT Enterprises UK Ltd, (the parent company) 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, committing £600K of personal money into the venture. J/V saved Royal Vauxhall Tavern and LGBTQ+ history and culture from closure and protecting RVT as a safe LGBTQ+ space.

➜ June 2008 – 2014: – Two Directors salaries working directly in the business could not be supported. 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 championed an offer from Immovate in a multi-million pound sale 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 now been withdrawn by the freehold owner due to the Grade II listed building status.

➜ October 2014: – Lambeth Council designated RVT – 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 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 and for a second time protecting RVT as a safe LGBTQ space.

➜ 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: – Lindsay secured terms for a new 20 year lease, for the third time, securing the longer term operating position, 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.

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. Throughout the term since 2005, only the Directors in the company as shareholder(s) have committed personal finances to 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, 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 and as a safe LGBTQ+ space
    • Sustained established reputation as vibrant and diverse venue
    • One of London’s most successful diverse entertainment programmes
    • Outstanding Business Achievement Award
  • RVT Charity Partnership Programme supporting LGBTQ+ charities has raised over £540,000
    • Media & Entertainment Industry Awards (Voted by the Public) as Best Cabaret Venue 2019/2020


➜ 20 March 2020 – October 2020 – Government National Lockdown with 17 weeks of forced closure – Curfew restrictions 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, 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 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 and curfew enforcement measures, 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.

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

➜ 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