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Chariots closing: Popular Shoreditch gay sauna ‘was much-needed safe space for gay men’

PUBLISHED: 10:41 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:08 05 February 2016

Plans: An artist's impression of the Shoreditch Highgate hotel (right), viewed from Boxpark

Plans: An artist's impression of the Shoreditch Highgate hotel (right), viewed from Boxpark

Archant

Regulars of east London’s biggest gay sauna today told of their devastation at news Chariots in Shoreditch is set to close.

The hotel, pictured in an artist's impression, will force Chariots to shut if it is builtThe hotel, pictured in an artist's impression, will force Chariots to shut if it is built

The spa, at the junction of Fairchild Street and Shoreditch High Street, will shut to make way for a new luxury hotel, planning documents reveal.

Its managers this week confirmed on social media its days were numbered.

The 30-storey Shoreditch Highgate will replace the sauna, which has been a “safe space” for gay men for almost two decades.

Philip Savage, 35, told the Gazette: “I am really sad in nostalgic terms as I used to go there quite frequently and had a lot of good times there.

“It was a safe space men could go to and people who weren’t necessarily ‘out’ would go there without fear.”

It follows the closure of a string of high-profile gay venues across the capital in the last year – including the Joiner’s Arms nearby in Shoreditch.

“Obviously it’s a tough time for gay venues in general,” added Mr Savage, “and the rise of luxury hotels is another issue.

“I guess you could link this to the attempts in Soho to close down or price out the more downmarket places, which just robs London of its character.”

Chariots, pictured in 2012Chariots, pictured in 2012

The four-star hotel, part of a planned retail park, was given the go-ahead in December and will include five buildings and 200 beds.

Chariots has yet to release a formal statement, but told a customer on Twitter: “We can’t tell the closing day just yet but please make sure you pop down to enjoy it while it’s there.”

To another customer, who suggested a protest should be organised, staff said: “We should try our best to prevent this.”

Neighbouring Majestic Wine Warehouse may also be threatened by the new plans, the Gazette understands.

A spokesman for Majestic Wine said: “My understanding is that the whole process is under negotiation.”

Two men have died at the chain’s four London saunas in recent years – including one who was found dead at the Shoreditch branch in July 2012.

A second man died at the Waterloo Chariots last year.

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