We need more LGBT+ bars, says owner of one of the last still going

Lucy Fenton at the pub’s temporary home in Clerkenwell Green

ONE of north London’s only LGBT+ venues is unlikely to reopen at its main site until next year due to building delays.

Lucy Fenton, who runs The Apple Tree in Mount Pleasant, said Brexit had caused the hold-up of supplies and “the build is taking longer than we’d like”.

While it cannot use its original home until at least 2023, the venue is running a “pop up” in Clerkenwell Green – but Ms Fenton warned that inclusive venues were being lost completely.

“We own the original building, and that was really important, because a lot of LGBTQ venues have shut for various reasons,” she said.

“Even before Covid it was a real trend. There’s a really interesting study by Urban Laboratory at UCL of how many have closed: Islington is pretty bad, Camden is pretty bad.”

This study found between 2006 and 2017, the number of LGBT+ venues across London has fallen by 58 per cent. Zodiac in Hampstead Road is the only venue in Camden.

To protect the remaining venues in London, Ms Fenton said it’s vital for communities to rally round to protect their pubs.

The bar’s original venue in Mount Pleasant where building work is ongoing

“Brexit had a huge effect on hospitality altogether, because a lot of the hospitality staff were from Europe,” she said. “If you go around there are staffing notices in every single venue, so we’re not alone in that.”

Ms Fenton added: “Supply chains are so disrupted in general. You think you’re going to get a keg [of beer] and it just doesn’t turn up.”

The Apple Tree pub caters for the “weird and wonderful people” who belong to the LGBT+ and “alternative lifestyle” community, Ms Fenton said, such as those pursuing non-monog­amous or polyamorous relationships.

She opened the pub in 2013 after realising “there’s not really one place for all of these people to go and be who they are, just how they want to”. So the Apple Tree was born.

“If you don’t know where you are on your journey, then come here,” Ms Fenton said. “You might meet like-minded folk, or we could even point you in the direction of what you’re looking for. There are so many things, like cultural reasons, that maybe mean [people] can’t be as open as they’d like to be.”

She likes to think of the Apple Tree as a stepping stone to entering more “wonderful, crazy” spaces.

“There are brilliant spaces like Dalston Superstore, where you can go and be part of a wonderful, crazy disco,” Ms Fenton said. “Or you might just want to say: I’m not quite ready for that yet, so maybe I’ll meet someone [at the Apple Tree].

“We’re a community venue – that’s what pubs are, they’re a community space. Pubs should be about fostering ­com­munity.”


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