Avoiding dreaded closure, this iconic, gay hangout in London just reopened

Balans No. 32, Old Compton Street, London
Balans No. 34, Old Compton Street, London (Photo: Balans)

With announcements about LGBTQ venues closing all over the globe, here’s some very welcome good news: The restaurant chain Balans, in London, UK, has reopened today (July 30).

It was revealed two months ago that Balans’ owners were to auction off seven of their restaurants. Fans of the chain were dismayed. They feared it would mean the brand would be broken up and the venues would shutter permanently.

The Balans branch at 60 Old Compton Street, Soho, is the most iconic, LGBTQ-friendly restaurant in the UK capital. It’s been in business since 1987. A more recently-opened sister cafe at 34 Old Compton Street was open 24-hours a day. As such, it was just as popular with brunch and lunch lovers as those looking for a post-clubbing coffee or snack.

The plush booths at the back of Balans No 60, Old Compton Street, London
The plush booths at the back of Balans No 60, Old Compton Street, London (Photo: Balans)

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Like all restaurants in the UK, they both closed their doors in March because of the government-mandated COVID-19 lockdown. News of the auction led many to assume they would never pass through its hallowed doors again.

However, in a welcome about-face, Balans is today throwing open its doors again after being closed for just over four months. Instead of selling off the chain, the owners have instead decided on a radical company restructure. This has resulted in the closure of two of its branches (Balans Ealing and Balans Victoria). However, after renegotiations with landlords, both Soho branches will reopen, alongside the outlets in Kensington, Westfield Shepherd’s Bush and Westfield Stratford City.

Balans on Old Compton Street, Soho
(Photo: Balans)

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Founder David Taylor told said in a statement, “We’re delighted to be back and can’t wait to see the familiar friendly faces return… For all restaurants this has been a dark and stormy mountain to climb but the team are buzzing to bring the Balans spirit back.”

Following a spike in COVID infections in April, the UK is slowly coming out of quarantine. Bars and restaurants have been allowed to open in England provided owners implement social distancing measures. In August, the government is running an ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ voucher scheme. This will mean paying 50% of food bills (up to £10/$13 per person per meal) at selected restaurants in August to encourage people to start eating out again. Balans will be taking part in the scheme.