13: Village


There are two entrances to Village, one on Brewer Street and the other on the corner of where Tilsbury Court meets Wardour Street, facing out onto Old Compton Street. Stand outside this second entrance.

From 1986, Westminster Council used new licensing powers to clamp down on Soho’s sex trade, including many illegal video shops that were cashing in on the new VHS boom (hard to imagine now, but porn used to be really expensive to buy and took ages to rewind).

Buildings stood empty and the council received license applications from openly gay venues. In 1986 Comptons was the first gay venue to open on Old Compton Street, even though it had been quite a lot gay for many years. It continued with its traditional look of blacking out the front windows to keep its customers safe from the prying eyes outside.

In 1991 Soho’s closet doors were flung open when The Village opened. With its bright colours and clear glass windows, a scene appeared which refused to be hidden from public view.

The Yard

In 1992 The Yard in Rupert Street opened its doors with another first for a gay bar - an open air courtyard visible from the street. And the first gay shop, CloneZone, also opened on Old Compton Street, selling sportswear, books, gifts, jewellery and sex toys.

The Yard was recently at risk after developers submitted plans to build flats over its Victorian stable yard. The proposals were objected by the bar, Soho Society, Historic England and Westminster City Council. It was finally saved after a government planning inspector backed the council's decision to protect it.

Next stop: Comptons of Soho