It’s a damp and cool November evening in London, UK, but inside a centuries-old bar that stands alone on a patch of park near some railway arches, the sweat begins to drip from the walls. The place is quickly filling up with a predominantly bear crowd and the small dancefloor is already jumping to a remix of an old Goldfrapp song.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern holds a beloved place in the heart of London’s LGBTQ scene. It’s known for its cabaret shows and some of its long-running club events.
Sunday Social is a tea-dance like house music session that packs in a tops-off gang of men every Sunday afternoon. Duckie, presided over by City Hall’s ‘Night Czar’, Amy Lamé has been running for almost 25 years, while Tuesday night’s Bar Wotever has established an equally loyal following.
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You can add BEEFMINCE to that list of beloved nights. The monthly promotion runs every third Friday and is now one of London’s premier bear nights. It’s been running since 2016 and its fame and stature have steadily grown.
The night is the brainchild of partners and fiancés Argyris Georgopoulos and Dan Prance (above). Dan tends to preside over the door and Argyris, as Silverhook, joins resident DJ Cactushead and guests at the DJ box.
The music tends toward remixes from the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Chic and Ladytron, with contemporary mixes of old 80s and 90s hits: “Fun vocal, sexy, dance music with loads of pop references,” says Argyris.
“We wanted our club night to be like a big house party that’s full of bears,” he tells Gay Cities. “It’s truly attitude-free, just get in, dance, and leave your working week behind. The weekend starts here!”
Asked why he believes it has established such a following, Argyris and Dan say it’s a combination of an iconic and beloved venue, and a friendly crowd: “BEEFMINCE is a true social event – you can turn up on your own and see dozens of your friends there.”
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously… we have the word ‘mince’ in the name! We think being gay should be fun, so we embrace all types: fem, masc, older, younger, etc. We can all party together.
“Being a ‘bear night’ means we get quite the hairy, beefy, beardy types through the doors, but we also get a whole host of people, all shapes, sizes and colors, male, female or whatever. Everyone is welcome because, at the end of the day, everyone loves to dance, right?”
When it launched, BEEFMINCE was a breath of fresh air on the scene. Dan and Argyris were both in their late 20s and 30s respectively – younger than some of the more established club promoters on the scene.
“This is one of my favorite nights in London,” says John, a BEEFMINCE regular tells me. “It’s an inclusive club that packs a punch. The venue and staff are always amazing and Argyris and Dan always put on a good show. There are not many nights left like this in London!”
On the evening I visit, an older daddy squeezes through the crowd wearing just a jockstrap and chain harness. Hipster bears from Hackney swap gossip with their South London counterparts, while several members of a local queer rugby team eye up the dancefloor, waiting for the alcohol to help lead them to the small dance floor.
By 11pm, there’s a queue to get inside the packed venue. Would the promoters consider taking it weekly? Particularly given that London recently lost XXL. The Southwark bears megaclub was forced to close when its venue was sold to property developers.
“We get asked this question a lot,” says Georgopoulos. “At present, we have no plans, we think a weekly event would lose some of the sparkle that BEEFMINCE has, being a key date in the monthly social calendar in London.
“But we are always on the lookout for opportunities to throw a special event in addition to our regular events. Spookmince for Halloween, for example, or our annual boat party, Boatmince.”
The team will also be taking the prestigious New Year’s Eve slot at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – which is guaranteed to be a sell-out.
“What Argyris and Dan do is create a welcoming, inclusive environment that feels like family,” says another regular, Kevin. “Lots of the regular Mincers know one another and if not they are all very welcoming.” He admits he has his personal reasons for stanning the night – he met his partner there back in January and they’ve happily been together since.
Phil, visiting London from Orlando, Florida, says, “It’s very diverse compared to most gay clubs in the USA. And the music is absolutely contagious. Some clubs seem to have lost their fun. BEEFMINCE keeps the fun going all night long.”
BEEFMINCE runs every third Friday at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London.