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This month has seen the community make very clear its support for the Black Cap and its essential place in Camden’s cultural offerings.

Camden LGBT Forum were thrilled with our nomination to make it an Asset of Community Value (ACV) being accepted last week. We were also thrilled with Camden Council’s decision in February not to grant planning permission to the owner’s wishes to turn the venue into flats. These decisions took into account the Black Cap’s cultural heritage, its essential work in supporting the local LGBT community and its role as a safe place for our residents to explore their own sexualities and gender identities. The latter being particularly true in a time where hate crime and discrimination is still very much a part of our LGBT lives. Camden LGBT Forum has a long history with the Black Cap. It was one of our original safe havens for LGBT people (under the Forum’s CLASP scheme), and has been host to dozens of Forum events and outreach sessions and I fondly remember our trip there to celebrate the founding of our Forum 13 years ago.

It was therefore a shock to find that the Cap had shut its doors on Monday. Even more of a shock was the declaration that the now former owners had sold the venue in December. In my mind this is very much against the ‘spirit’ of planning rules.

The Leader of Camden Council, Sarah Hayward, said:

“We’re very concerned by the closure of the Black Cap. Faucet have a track record in Camden that isn’t good. This is the third pub they operate to close its doors this year, following the Steele’s and Dartmouth Arms.

“The pub has operated continuously as a gay venue since before homosexuality is legal and I’d urge Faucet to take a long hard think about summarily ripping up half a century of history. Moreover the venue is still needed. Our LGBT community continues to experience discrimination and The Black Cap provides a safe haven and a place for the community to come together.

“If Faucet are reading this, then I’d urge them to meet to discuss their plans and how we can ensure there is a future of this historic and important venue.”

Faucet Inns, who have operated the Cap on behalf of the Freeholder, have been very limited in their response and have stated:

“Faucet Inn Limited regrets to announce that it is no longer able to operate The Black Cap in Camden, London; a site it has operated on behalf of the freeholder for the last five years.

“The building which was exchanged by the freeholder in December last year will complete imminently which has meant the site has had to be closed as of today. The building had been the subject of a planning permission application request to convert the upper floors which was subsequently rejected by the council.

“Faucet Inn thanks its loyal customers over the time it has operated the site and regrets the impact on the LGBTQI community of the closure of the venue.

“This historical venue has long been recognised as an important part of the LGBTQI community and its significant contribution to many performers on the London and international cabaret circuit.”

Although the ACV status has not prevented the sale of the venue, as it happened prior to our nomination being accepted, it will limit the terms of use. Usually a land owner can change the use of their venue without the need for planning permission (where the development is permitted in law). A new amendment which came into effect on Easter Monday means that the new owners, whose property is now listed as an Asset of Community Value, will not be able to change the use of the bar area without planning permission. As of yet Camden Council has not received any new requests for planning permission. Should they receive one they will judge it on its merits. I imagine it would be unlikely to go through, however, as the council has made clear its respect for the venue through its granting of ACV status and decisions to turn down planning permission twice in recent years.

In my mind this means the new owners will keep the venue as a bar. The question is what kind of bar? It is very difficult to ascertain due to the lack of knowledge of who the new owners are. I have checked with the Land Registry and it still lists the old owners on their database (which makes sense as the ‘completion’ of the sale is resent). Of course if the new owners decided to sell then the other protections under the Localism Act will apply, namely that Assets of Community Value give local communities the chance to express an interest in buying the property. Although with a £12,000,000 price tag this would be a challenge!

As soon as Camden LGBT Forum discovers who the new owners are it will attempt to meet with them to discuss their plans. Then I will call on our residents to write to the owners expressing their desires for the Black Cap to continue in its true glory as a going concern. And please be assured we are in constant contact with Camden Council whom I am assured have no desire to see the venue vanish from our community.

We will keep you posted.

Nigel Harris

Director

Camden LGBT Forum

14th April 2015

LATEST UPDATE FROM CAMDEN LGBT FORUM – 15th April 2015

To show support why not join the following Facebook group that members of the queer community, including former punters, performers and promoters of the Cap have started and have your say: www.facebook.com/groups/618591174944231/

Also the group has put on a protest at the closure this Saturday (18th April 2015) to show how wide the support for the Cap is – why not come along? 

When? 1pm-5pm

Where? The Black Cap, 171 Camden High Street, Camden Town, NW1 7JY

Also we have now found out which company has purchased the Cap and are attempting to make contact.

Thank you to everyone’s efforts with this important issue. The Forum has received numerous offers of help and are meeting with people day and night. Next update as soon as we have more!

Black Cap Closes and What Happens Next?
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