|The Glass Bar|
Location: West Lodge, Euston Garden, 190 Euston Road, Bloomsbury, London, England
Opened: November 2001 (at this location) as the Glass Bar. The group behind the Glass Bar, the London BiWomen's Group (LBWG), formerly met at Vespa Lounge (1999-2001), Drill Hall (1998-1999), and the London Women's Centre (1991-1998).
Here's a description of the old Glass Bar from spoonfed:
Very chic lesbian bar set over two floors in elegant premises. they have a full programme of events and welcome casual visitors - but not men. Closed at weekends except for private parties.
WHAT! NO LADS? That's UNHEARD OF!
So how did the Glass Bar manage this feat? Quite simple, really. It was set up as a "private members" bar. From Yell:
The Glass Bar is a private members club frequented by gay women that can cater for private parties of up to 100 guests upon request. Serving a variety of beers, wines and spirits, they also provide Sky TV as additional entertainment. This venue is also available for hire. Doors close after 11pm.
But even then, it appeared that the Glass Bar was the only women-only establishment of its type in the whole of London. From RatesToGo:
The “sole women only bar in London” is a bold claim but such is the flag that Glass Bar waves. Improbable digs close to Euston station adds to the atmosphere.
Gotta love it. Only the Brits can turn a phrase like that.
Speaking of their "improbable digs," do check out the exterior in more detail. It seems that the Glass Bar was housed in one of the former gatehouses of the old Euston Station, which dates to the 1830s. (Find out more about the architectural history here.) As geolocations explains,
The Glass Bar, Euston
Technically known as the West Lodge, this [see photo above], and the mirror image East Lodge, is all that remains of the old Euston station which was demolished in the 1960s. The stonework includes a list of destinations once reachable from Euston. Although it is right on Euston Road even people who know the area well often don't realise that it contains a private members women-only club called the Glass Bar.
To a yank like myself who is used to sprawling cinder block entertainment center/bars in the American midwest, the Glass Bar strikes me as incredibly posh--though improbably small. How did a bar function in such a tiny--though utterly fantastic--space? Former patron Tracy T explains it for you:
Just outside Euston station are 2 large monuments and inside one of them is the Glass Bar. It's a quirky and intimate space but know that it is a strictly women only venue.
There is a small bar area as you walk in and an even smaller first floor space which is used for private bookings, scrabble nights, comedy or music events.
Still, the management was aware of the fact that the "improbable digs" were rather difficult to locate. So difficult, in fact, that they actually had to venture out on occasion and rescue lost visitors! From londontown:
The Glass Bar is London's sole women-only bar. Having started out life as a travel guide and bookshop it is now a warm, friendly and welcoming bar for all types of women. The purpose of The Glass Bar is to support and encourage the artistic expression and cultural development of the London women's community.
Despite being located very close to Euston station, the bar is hard to find so staff offer to collect you from the station so that you don't get lost on the way.
The Rough Guide to London (2003) also alerted visitors to the potential pitfalls that await the unwary wayfarer. We also discover how one goes about joining this "private members" club. According to the Guide at least, one need only show up female:
Difficult to find (and hard to forget), this friendly and intimate late-opening women-only members bar (membership is automatic once you're inside) is housed in a listed building and features a wrought-iron spiral staircase which becomes increasingly perilous as the night goes on. Knock on the door to get in. Open from 5pm; no admission after 11:30pm. Closed Sun.
However, Frommer's (2008) says otherwise. They claimed it would set you back a pound (around $1.90) to join:
This is a classy, friendly lesbian bar near Euston Station, run by a tall Afro-Carribean woman named Elaine. You'll find good drinks with women of all types, plus live music, comedy, reading groups, films, and even a singles night. Technically, this is a private club, but women visitors are granted membership for L1 ($1.90) daily. Open only Monday to Friday from 5pm to 11:30pm, when a L1 ($1.90) cover is imposed.
After closing in 2008, the Glass Bar has continued to live on as a "variety of social events" held in "temporary spaces." According to the Glass Bar website,
The Glass Bar was founded in 1995 as home to a diverse, vibrant, exciting, powerful, beautiful community of women. Since the untimely closure of our building in 2008, we have relocated some of our activities in temporary spaces for now. When the economy picks up we will endeavour to find a permanent space in Central London. We have re-launched with a fresh new focus. The Glass Bar has taken up an exciting new role as an Arts & Social Club for the London women's LBTQH community - i.e. lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and heterosexual women.
From sisterhood, girl power, yummy mummies, lipstick lesbians, feminists, career women to home providers, carers, across cultures, class, creed, colour, religion, trans-gender and sexuality, existing to give a colourful, social mix that illuminates and enhances life experiences, through interaction, networking, discussions, debates, and a variety of entertainment in London.
The Glass Bar members meet in comfortable, friendly spaces located in Central London. Our aims are to encourage the social and economic progress of women. The Glass Bar promotes and facilitates groups and individuals whose core values mirrors our aims through networking, art, entertainment and a variety of social events.
As of 2010, the Euston Tap had been installed at the Glass Bar's former location.
This cheeky tribute to the Glass Bar has to be one of the wittiest bar obituaries ever. But it certainly captures a sentiment that I have shared for a long time. And that is that lesbians are truly the "Palestinians" of bar subcultures, with "only a few isolated pieces of land to call their own."
You’ve got to feel for lesbians. They get a rough deal. I may not be a lesbian, but the Sapphic sisters of London and I certainly have very similar feelings about one or two matters, and not all of them involve boobs. This is not a question of eroticism, human biology, dungarees, or grossly erroneous stereotypes. This empathy is purely based on the near non-existence of lesbian bars in London.
Everyone in London loves bars, but lesbians seem to be the Palestinians of the London sub-cultures. They’re granted only a few isolated pieces of land to call their own. London is rich with bars and pubs for sports fanatics, bars and pubs for goths, bars and pubs for yummy mummies, even bars and pubs for bad karaoke singers to inflict mass carnage. Lesbians, however, are the pariahs of the gay world, pressured into hanging out in gay (read: men’s) bars, or waiting for that one monthly night when a specific bar might turn girl-queer.
It’s bars like The Euston Tap that are to blame for this inequality. This peculiarly miniscule Grade II lodge, set discreetly between the hurtling northern edge of the congestion charge zone and the all-trains-north maelstrom of Euston Station, was once known as The Glass Bar. The Glass Bar was one of London’s few truly lesbian-only bars. That was before it closed down and The Euston Tap took its place. Out went the boobs, in came the beers and the Adam’s Apple.