Published: 06 October 2011
by JOSH LOEB
A PIONEERING gay café praised as one of the first venues of its kind will close when its lease expires later this month.
First Out, in St Giles High Street, off Tottenham Court Road, opened in 1986 and was inspired by Amsterdam’s enlightened café culture.
It has hosted exhibitions and other cultural events and is cherished by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a low-key hangout.
Its co-owner Maria Tejada said business had fallen off because of “upheaval” in the area and changes in London’s gay scene.
And she said there were no plans relocate.
“This was the first openly gay establishment for daytime trade,” said Ms Tejada.
“Before there had just been nightclubs.
“We have been affected by the Crossrail redevelopment and the whole area has seen a lot of changes.
The Astoria and the Ghetto Club have gone.
“There has been a lot of upheaval, which has had an impact on us, but at the end of the day we have made a lot of friends and created a place where people can be themselves. For that we are very proud.”
Writer Jonathan Kemp, whose debut novel London Triptych examined the world of Oscar Wilde’s rent boys, said: “First Out was significant in that it opened in the 1980s at a time when a commercial scene was emerging.
It wasn’t just a café, it was a gallery, a club space and a meeting place for a whole community.
This is just another indication of how independent businesses in central London are disappearing.”
Former staff at the café have included TV presenter and former Camden Mayoress Amy Lamé.