In the 1970s and 1980s it was one of the main gay areas of London, but most or all of the businesses aimed at gay men have disappeared, as Soho and Vauxhall established themselves as the focus of gay nightlife.
The first public nightclub aimed at a gay clientele, The Copacabana, opened in Earls Court Road in the late 1970s, but was re-themed as a general venue in the late 1990s. The bar upstairs, Harpies and Louies, was until the late 1980s the most popular gay bar in London. It is now the Wagamama restaurant.
In 1964, The Lord Ranelagh Pub (opposite the former Princess Beatrice Hospital) spearheaded the local demand for live entertainment with the "Queen of the Month" contest was born. The pub underwent several different incarnations as a gay nightclub, the last as "Infinity", but is now closed.
The Coleherne dates from the 1880s and had a long history of attracting a bohemian clientele before becoming known as a gay pub. A life-long resident of Earls Court Square, Jennifer Ware, recollects as a child being taken there to Sunday lunch in the 1930s, when drag entertainers performed after lunch had finished. In the 1970s it became a notorious Leather bar, with blacked-out windows, attracting an international crowd including the likes of Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett and Rudolf Nureyev. It also became infamous as the stalking ground for three separate serial killers from the 1970s to the 1990s: Dennis Nilsen, Michael Lupo and Colin Ireland. It sought to lighten its image with a makeover in the mid-1990s to attract a wider clientele; to no avail, as in December 2008 it underwent a major refurbishment and repositioned itself as a gastro pub as "the Pembroke".
The Boltons, near the Coleherne, was "one of the seedier gay venues, with drugs and prostitutes helping to create a pretty depressing atmosphere. The brewery eventually called time changing it to a Victorian Dining room and later an Irish Theme pub."
The Adonis Art Gallery flourished near the Coleherne for many years, but the business is now web-based only.
In the 1970s Harold Haywood and others were involved in the Earls Court Project, aimed at helping gay young people in the area .
1997 Listings for Earl's Court
Gay London, 1997 lists 20 establishments in Earls Court:
Pubs & Bars
Cafés & Restaurants
Partly based on a Wikipedia article.
- HCA Archives at LSE- Albany Trust Youth Officer papers have a set of minutes for a meeting of the Earls Court Project 19 May 1977