Meet the founder of London’s new lesbian bar

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags London Property Social responsibility

The founder of a new east London lesbian bar, which has hit its fundraising target of £50,000 to launch a permeant venue, has opened up about future plans.

La Camionera, run by Alex Loveless and their Spanish girlfriend Clara, initially opened as a residency on Broadway Market, intended as a lowkey tapas bar for 25 covers.

It opened its doors to a viral launch on Thursday 15 February, that saw hundreds of lesbians flood the streets in what has since been dubbed ‘Winter Pride’, highlighting the demand for more lesbian spaces.

The inspiration for the venue comes from trips to visit Clara’s family in rural Spain and Madrid. “We have wanted to bring some of that back here - simple tapas, vermouth on tap, frozen glasses, and the right amount of salt, lemon, butter, and ice,” said Loveless.

The bar joins one of only a handful of lesbian venues in the UK, including She bar in Soho. It will open on the last week of March or the first weekend of April.

But why are there so few lesbian spaces? Loveless said: “Maybe it’s because it’s difficult to set up. Usually, the people who want to go into this kind of business, like me, do some kind of precarious work and don’t have a lot of money, so it’s difficult set these places up.

“There’s not that many nice places to go. There’s all a bit of an assault on the senses sometimes. It’s not as thought through as it could be.”

Talking on the importance of LGBTQ+ venues, Loveless added: “A lot of lesbian spaces have moved online, and it’s really important, inside the community and outside as well, to be face-to-face, and around people, and talking, and not being so self-conscious and prepared all the time.”

‘La Camionera’ translates to ‘female truck driver’ in Spanish, and beyond its literal translation, is also slang for butch lesbians.

Alongside cocktails, guests enjoyed nibbles on the opening night, including crisps and olives, a little taster for the real deal. But the new venue will have a fully fitted out kitchen and will serve tapas.

Loveless, who has run club nights around Hackney for the best part of a decade, said: “I thought there’d be a lot of people but not anywhere near as much as that, there was nothing we were really prepared for, but it was amazing.

“It was only meant to be me and my Clara’s brother behind the bar, but it was so busy that literally every single person I know just got behind the bar and helped out, and so we were swamped down there for a few hours.”

After a few hours Loveless braved the crowds: “I had to go right back in because it was too much”.

Loveless added: “I got the overwhelming feeling that everyone was really excited, and I think everyone was a bit surprised that everyone was there, to a certain extent.”

People have made friends, which is “exactly what we wanted from this in the first place”.

Loveless and Clara had “scraped together” around 70% of what they needed in personal loans and government start up loans, and the remainder of the money has been fundraised online.

People had the option to pay for pints, cocktails, T-shirts, cats and party tickets, and more, in exchange for a donation.

Loveless, who has written for London-based food publications, describes the vibe of the new bar, loosely inspired by the Planet venue in The L Word, as “minimal and colourful”. They’ll stick to Spanish references and will make the garden “really beautiful”.

“We’re trying to work with what we’ve got, strip away what we don’t need, and just try and create a really nice, beautiful space,” added Loveless.

La Camionera is posited as an alternative to busy club nights with “warm beer in plastic glasses”.

Loveless said: “We want to have somewhere we can lounge about, talk, and just spend time in a laid-back setting.

“With daily specials and happy hours, it's never going to price anyone out of a well-made drink and something to eat, though we'll have enough natural wine behind the bar and in our bottle shop for people wanting to flex on their date.”

Overall, the £50,000 raised will go towards the premium on the place from the new owners, alcohol and hot food licenses, and the deposit.

Loveless said: “We're hoping that as this campaign is offering redeemable rewards that it will help us with cash flow for the first few months on top of all of this.

“We are also paying our staff a living wage and giving staff members the opportunity to have equity in La Camionera so it is run by the people who work there - typical outside investment from industry would not allow this as labour is often the first-place people cut down when making cost savings.”

Loveless is excited to see how the bar stands up long-term. They said: “I’m excited to see in a few weeks’ time, when it dies down a bit, and we get to have casual, random Saturday nights where there’re people that are having a good time and you get to chat and meet people."

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