First Out Cafe Bar

London U.K.

Closed 2011

The Disappointed Tourist: First Out Cafe Bar, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The First Out Cafe Bar on Tottenham Court Road was established in 1986 and was the first LGBT cafe in London. The owners closed the cafe in 2011 after they were unable to renegotiate their lease due to the local impact of the Crossrail development. The photograph is based on an uncredited photograph published in Gasholder.London.

Online dating apps seem to have killed off many iconic LGBTQ+ venues in London. When I moved to the city in 1997, the ‘scene’ was very daunting to the young and uninitiated. Very male, very white, aggressively sexualised, soaked in alcohol and night-time oriented. It was a relief to discover First Out, a café open in the daytime, serving food and hot drinks, a place to read the queer press or a book, and attend events. Run by a collective, I found it a less intimidating starting place. Anon.