LGBT+ CAMDEN: Zodiac becomes first LGBTQ+ venue in borough in three years

Owners thank supporters for helping to get bar up and running

Thursday, 10th February — By Harry Taylor

Hoskins zodiac bar pics2022feb10 Image 2022-02-10 at 10.53.51

David Hoskins at Zodiac

THE co-owners of Camden’s first LGBTQ+ venue in more than three years are toasting its success as it marks four months since welcoming in the first customers.

Zodiac was opened by married couple David Hoskins and Jade Phoenix in early November.

The borough’s last LGBTQ+ venue, Her Upstairs, in Camden Town, had shut in August 2018.

Mr Hoskins said: “In a perfect world you wouldn’t need a venue like this, because you could go anywhere and be yourself and it wouldn’t matter.

“It’s a place where you can go. If you’re a gay guy in a Wetherspoon’s and you see someone attractive you might not feel comfortable going and talking to people because of that space, but you can meet people [here] who are like-minded and on the same journey.”

Zodiac was built on the back of successful events in Archway and Tufnell Park, before a fundraising drive saw backers put up £300,000 to get the club and bar in Hampstead Road going.

The site had previously been Positively 4th Street and then the Shaker & Co cocktail bars.

Mr Hoskins said that apart from two weeks in December amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, it has been well supported – including by punters flocking in on Christmas Day.

He said it proved the need for an LGBTQ+ venue, with hopes there will be enough demand to open a second.

He said: “For a space like this it’s important to have somewhere safe where you can meet people, share experiences, be supported and feel comfortable – the ability to express yourself and be yourself without judgement. For example, we have a number of trans women who come in, who have transitioned recently or have started their journey later in life, and I think if they went into a straight bar for the first time as their new self, they wouldn’t feel comfortable.”

The 42-year-old, who lives above the bar, said that other than a few incidents of verbal abuse, Zodiac has been welcomed into the area.

Mr Hoskins left his previous job as a business consultant in 2018 after transphobic comments from colleagues about being married to a trans woman.

He said that Ms Phoenix had also been treated noticeably differently in business meetings, where people would ignore her and only speak to him.

“It was terrible. ‘Are you gay? Are you this? Has she had the full surgery? What do you do in the bedroom?’,” he said.

“I was in field sales, so I got all these questions at sales meetings. My sales manager started asking me questions about Jade, and I was like, ‘This is not really any of your business.’ I took them to an employment tribunal and won.

“I have always taken a position to try and educate rather than cancel people for saying it, but when you try and make an effort to educate people and explain what’s appropriate but then they’re still horrible, at this point you say, ‘OK, I’ve gone as far as I’m going to say in this conversation’.”

He said that the priority is to keep the 250-capacity club going, before potentially looking to open another.

“Maybe a Manchester one, maybe Cardiff,” he said.

“The short term is to keep this place going and make sure we’re a viable business and we can create a space for people in the area. Long term the ambition is a second venue, and people are willing to support that.”

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